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HERD HEALTH

Find information about mastitis, transition cows, vaccination protocols, working with your veterinarian, hoof care and hoof trimming.

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Due to the global spread of digital dermatitis (hairy heel wart or strawberry heel) over the last 25 years, the prevention of lameness in dairy herds now ranks alongside fertility and mastitis as one of the top three farm management issues that have the most negative economic impact on a dairy.

In the same time period, it has been widely accepted that once digital dermatitis is present on a given farm, it cannot be eradicated and so a regular footbathing regime must be implemented on-farm in order to control the background levels of causative organisms and to stop the spread of infection.

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Sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) is described as a digestive disorder where the pH of the ruminal contents is between 5.5 and 5.8. Historical estimates indicate it costs the dairy industry in North America between $500 million and $1 billion per year.

A decrease in rumen pH from the normal range of 6.0 to 6.4 may be attributed to many factors. Some potential causes include:

• Quick diet changes from a lower to a higher concentrate ration
• Overmixing the TMR
• High DCAD diets
• Diet sorting and errors in nutrient content of feeds.

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0811pd_thomson_1Human nature requires that before we can correct a problem, we must first admit to a problem. This author believes there are three important reasons to define environmental mastitis as a problem.

REASON #1: The 400,000 SCC limit for salable milk is coming to America
As I wrote in a Progressive Dairyman article last fall, reducing this country’s SCC limit is long overdue. Now is the time to evaluate your dairy’s SCC history and decide if you are ready for the new regulations.

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Question:We have a lot of lameness in our herd and it seems to be mainly caused by hairy heel warts. We are desperate and we need advice on how to tackle this problem. How often should we run a foot bath and would that do the trick?

Answer: I’m glad to hear that you are interested in how to reduce lameness in your herd. Lameness is an economical loss in prosperous times, but it’s even more serious when times are tough; it shows no mercy.

The complexity of the issues that cause lameness will not allow me to explain everything in one article – perhaps some other time I can go into more detail in a special series. Right now though, I’m sure you’ve already tried various options, but I will give you a short overview on a good approach for curing and preventing lameness caused by warts (digital dermatitis).

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Lameness is an animal welfare issue and a major economic loss on many dairy farms. Common causes of lameness include sole hemorrhages, white line hemorrhages and sole ulcers, which can be categorized as claw horn lesions.

These claw horn lesions can develop around calving and early lactation, and become noticeable around peak or mid-lactation.

The current hypothesis is that claw horn lesions are a result of a bruise within the claw horn capsule. Physiological changes around calving and early lactation, such as weakening of connective tissue of the hoof suspensory apparatus and the decrease in thickness of the digital cushion, increase the risk of bruising, especially in poor housing conditions.

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There are few if any diseases in dairy cattle that impact the performance, profitability and welfare of animals more than lameness. Indeed, it justifies a conscious effort on the part of every dairy to invest whatever time or effort is needed to optimize foot health.

Effects on performance
Lame cows are less competitive at the feedbunk, when choosing a stall or when involved in aggressive interactions with other cows. Add to this studies that suggest pain alone is sufficient to decrease feed intake, and it’s not hard to see why milk yield is reduced by lameness.

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