Whether they spend their days on pasture or in a barn, cows are inevitably at risk for hoof injuries that, left untreated, can result in lameness, decreased milk production, and limited mobility. Get a leg up on hoof health issues with these quick tips:
- Learn How to Identify Cows with Hoof Issues: While a complete evaluation and locomotion scoring is the most accurate way to determine if a cow has hoof issues, it may not always be practical.
Some visual cues that may indicate hoof issues include an arched back, short strides, head bobbing, swinging legs in/out, shifting weight or inability to bear weight on one or more legs, and difficulty rising or standing.
- Implement Standard Procedures for Hoof Care: Set realistic goals aimed at reducing lameness, then create a hoof health plan to reach these goals. Ensure that hoof issues are addressed immediately and consistently by monitoring hoof trimming data.
Farmers should work with both their hoof trimmer and their veterinarian to customize a wellness plan suited for their dairy’s individual needs.
- Focus on Flooring: Inadequate barn floors are a major contributor of lameness in dairy cattle. Smooth, worn floors offer little traction and can result in injury from slipping, while overly rough floors can result in excessive wear and abrasion.
A variety of options can address flooring-related hoof issues: floors can be resurfaced or recut to provide proper traction, or alternative flooring options, including rubber mats, can be used.
- Ensure a Hoof-Friendly Environment: Consider products and practices that promote increased herd and hoof health.
Keep alleys clean of manure, which can cause slipping, soft feet, or sole ulcers, by scraping at regular intervals.
- Gooch, Curt A. “Flooring Considerations for Dairy Cows.” Cornell University.
- Sjostrom, Lucas. “Hoof trimming: Prevent and treat lameness, with a purpose.” Dairy Herd Management.
- “Identifying Lameness in Dairy Cattle.” Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada