Prevention of lameness in dairy herds

Diseases of the hoof affect the welfare of the animal and require expensive treatments, with negative effects on milk production and reproductive activity. Studies conducted worldwide estimate that the prevalence of laminitis is between 20 and 30%. The dairy cow is expected to produce large amounts of milk, often leading to combined problems of the udder and hooves. The pressure on the cow’s body to produce milk determines a metabolic stress that decrease her immunity.

The main causes of diseases of the hoof in cows are: high stocking densities in the stable; poor quality of the floor on which the cow treads, frequent changes to grouping, excessive energy and protein from the feed ration, and genetics (the problems of the hooves are inherited through breeding).

Several measures can help to prevent hoof diseases in dairy cows, such as: maintaining good hygiene in the shelters, keeping the floors of the barn clean and dry; bathing the hoof of the cows before or after leaving the milking parlour and maintaining the same bath for a period of 2-3 days; periodic trimming, at least 2-3 times a year; feeding rations which are energy and protein balanced during the transition period; reducing the frequency of modifications to the feed rations; and ensuring feeds utilise good quality fats according to nutritional requirements.

In the dry period, the concentrated feed should be reduced, or even eliminated, from the ration, and after calving the inclusion of concentrates should gradually increase. The addition of Zinc to the ration has favourable effects on the skin and the hooves. Furthermore, animal breeding should be directed towards obtaining animals with strong bones, correct statutre and resistance to hoof diseases.