Keeping lameness under control ahead of breeding


Keeping lameness under control ahead of breeding

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Brian McDonnell

May 2, 2023 6:10 am

Keeping lameness under control ahead of breeding

Lameness is an ongoing issue on many dairy farms. Despite control measures, cases will still occur.

It is much later in the year than normal, but cows are finally outside full-time – which means their walking distance has increased.

Lameness can have a detrimental effect on dairy-cow performance and is also an animal welfare issue.


Unlike a suckler cow, a dairy cow often does a significant amount of walking/day, so ensuring that hoof health is good should be a priority for farmers.

It is important to be proactive; cows that are lame should be identified and treated promptly.


Some simple measures that farmers can take to help prevent or reduce lameness issues are:

  • Improve the quality of roadway surfaces;
  • Have clean yards and passageways;
  • Allow cows enough time to walk from the paddock to the yard, meaning no shoving or pushing cows;
  • Keep a distance of 5m behind the herd when they are walking;
  • Avoid overcrowding in collecting yards;
  • When housed, ensure an adequate number of cubicles and feed spaces are available;
  • Footbathe regularly if there is a need to do so;
  • Complete regular mobility-score checks;
  • Treat lame cows promptly.

Detecting and treating cases before they become clinical is the best defence against lameness.

Locomotion or mobility scoring is the best way to detect these subclinical cases of lameness.

Once a cow is clearly showing signs of lameness the issue is generally quite severe and treatment/recovery will take longer.

So by detecting cases early you can reduce the recovery time and any pain or discomfort that the cow might be in.



As we move into the breeding season, cases of lameness are not something that farmers will want to see.

Lame cows often struggle to go in calf because they are less likely to be seen in oestrus; if they are seen in heat it is likely to be less intense and last for a shorter period of time.

Prior to the start of breeding, any cows that are showing signs of lameness should be assessed.

Achieving reproduction targets on farms is hard enough without lameness issues causing further complications.

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