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


1510pd_leg_fg_1Known as one of the largest health problems on United States dairies, lameness costs producers thousands of dollars each year through veterinary bills, higher culling rates, lost milk production and a decline in reproductive performance. While lameness is not often tied directly to reproductive failure, research continues to show that sore feet are closely tied to breeding pen performance.

Lameness 101: Hoof anatomy
It’s nearly impossible to understand why the dairy cow’s hoof responds to stress in the ways it does without understanding its structure, which is illustrated in Figure 1.

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If you’re in the dairy business, you’ve no doubt seen the grim results of an acute case of coliform mastitis. The fever; hot, painful udder swelling; grossly abnormal milk; lack of appetite; and shock-like symptoms are difficult to watch and even harder to forget. Often, severe cases like this lead to loss of a quarter, at best; and loss of the animal, at worst.

We tend to think of these sporadic cases as the only instances in which we deal with coliform mastitis. But, in fact, about half of all clinical cases are caused by noncontagious environmental organisms, including E. coli, Klebsiella and Enterobacter, which fall together under the umbrella of coliform or gram-negative mastitis.

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For many dairy farmers, 2009 was a difficult winter in many parts of the country. Snow in December, along with additional storms and extreme cold temperatures, left dairy farmers numerous obstacles to deal with. One of those obstacles is hoof care and lameness. All too often lameness is an underlying issue robbing dairy farmers of profits. It is estimated that every lame cow on a dairy farm costs between $300 and $400 due to lost production, decreased reproductive efficiency and cost of treatment.

Research by Dr. Nigel Cook at the University of Wisconsin – Madison showed that January, February and March are the months where lameness caused by infectious lesions is most prevalent (Figure 1). Dr. Cook tracked lameness in ten Wisconsin dairy herds for a 12-month period.

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1510pd_scholz_1There’s an old saying in horse racing circles. “No hoof, no horse.” It refers to the simple truth that even the fastest, strongest and most well-bred colt can’t run if he’s not sound.

Dairy cows aren’t runners or even particularly athletic, but the same phrase could easily be modified to “No foot, no cow” to describe the impact lameness has on dairy cattle performance. Although that wouldn’t be completely accurate because lameness can hobble bulls too, adding them to the list of “physically unable to perform” animals.

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