Why cows go lame?
Lameness in cows are caused by infectious lesions (digital dermatitis) or noninfectious lesions.
Digital dermatitis (DD), is contagious and an infected cow develops painful lesion which affects the cow's mobility, causing lameness.
Noninfectious lesions are the results of trauma inside the foot, which is aggravated by physiological or environmental conditions.
Physiological factors such as hormonal or behavioral changes like increased standing time can lead to ligaments loosening up around the major bone in the foot and depletion of fat cushion that protects it from damaging the delicate corium layer, which grows new hoof horn.
Hence, cows fresh 45 to 60 days may experience lameness in the form of sole ulcers, thin soles and white line lesions.
Environment factors include poor flooring an footing, uncomfortable stalls and extended periods in the holding pen which will cause foot problems.
Thin soles and toes are common on dairies that use sand bedding and where cows have to walk significant distance to the milking parlour.
How to combat lameness?
Hoof trimming, when done on a consistent basis and correctly, can help prevent and recover lameness from noninfectious sources.
However, over-trimming can actually make it worse.
A few common trimming errors include trimming toes too short and soles too thin, excessive trimming of the heel, removal of the inside wall of the toe and trimming the sole of the claws with extreme concavity, rather than flat.
As for lameness caused by DD, it is recommended to aggressively treat lesions within 48 hours, maintaining a clean and stress free environment, and running a well-managed footbath program to control active lesions and prevent the spread to other cows.