Hoof health remains one of the most critical issues among dairy farmers today. Mobility is directly related to hoof health and all dairy farmers should do their best to promote hoof health, including identifying and treating hoof problems
The cow's comfort is crucial. A clean, dry and comfortable environment is essential.
Stocking density is also important. A stocking density greater than 85% can lead to cow's comfort issue and cause hoof health problems.
Cows also need sufficient bunk space to eat and enough space to lie down.
Minimize competition if possible by identifying weaker animals early have consider moving them to special care areas.
In freestall facilities, animals must have sufficient lunge room so that they can stand up in a continuous and smooth movement.
The surface which the cows stand on is also important as they are standing on it all day.
Cows standing on hard concrete at all times will cause hoof issues such as foot rot and laminitis.
It is important for freestalls to provide some cushioning for hooves such as using sand bedding which is very comfortable for the cows.
A number of hoof issues are also caused by moisture. Cows standing in manure are more likely to have hoof issues.
Environment control is also crucial to minimize breeding ground for bacteria, which can affect hoof health.
Cows on pasture need to have access to supplementary feed and water that is not surrounded by mud hole.
The 4 main areas of concern include laminitis, foot rot, sole ulcers and digital dermatitis.
Routine hoof trimming will help to identify these early and help to minimize any form of economic losses related to these diseases.
Non-infectious foot problems include issues of conformation, management and nutrition.
Some foot issues are due to overcrowding and prolonged standing time.
Happy, health hooves are a result of proper dry cow program which meets the nutritional needs of a dry cow and a transition ration that minimizes metabolic disease post-calving.
Prevention is better than cure for hoof issues. Here are some ways to help prevent hoof issues in the first place:
Ensure cows are in a clean and dry environment.
Make sure cows have sufficient stall size.
Provide non-abrasive flooring with good traction
Avoid any overcrowding situation.
Make sure the cow's hoof are trimmed regularly.
Use and maintain proper footbaths.
Feed well balanced diet to the cows.
Avoid any sudden changes in the diet.
Identify any lame cows early and implement corrective action plans immediately.
Paying attention to hoof health is crucial not just for productivity but it is also the right thing to do. Work with your vet to create proper hoof care management.