Livestock producers are being reminded to pay close attention to the physical wellbeing of their livestock to prevent cattle developing lameness disease this winter.
There are multiple factors that contribute to lameness in cattle but the risks can be minimised.
Lameness is a painful physical condition that is often caused by direct trauma to the sole of a cow’s hoof, typically from standing on sharp rocks exposed as wet weather erodes farmland.
However poor nutrition, injury, infection and poor genetics may also contribute to the development of this condition.
Lameness can affect growth performance as cattle may be reluctant to eat or drink if standing or walking is painful.
A lame bull’s mating capability is also greatly reduced as semen quality can be affected if the lameness is due to an infection.
This can reduce financial profits for farmers as lame cows produce less milk, lose weight, take longer to cycle and are expensive to treat.
Awkward movement, short strides, head bobbing, back arching, leg swinging and reluctance to bear wait on hoofs are all signs of lameness in cattle.
Farmers should seek treatment for their cattle if these symptoms are noticed and remain persistent.
Early treatment is the key to rapid and complete recovery with minimal disturbance to cattle productivity.
To help reduce the risk of cattle developing lameness, farmers should:
■Move cattle calmly and refrain from pushing them to walk long distances quickly over rough ground.
■Remove any restrictions and distractions to cow movement such as sharp stones, dead trees and any obstacles shading laneways causing mud-bogging.
■Make sure laneways are at least 5m wide and have a well-compacted base.
■Move water troughs in paddocks away from gates and laneways.
■Avoid cows standing and moving around on concrete for long periods of time.
■Get cows to enter the holding yard at the rear to preserve their social order for milking.
■Check for hoof inflammation or infections on a regular basis.
■Monitor bulls during mating season.
■Ensure careful management of step-up rations and high grain diets to reduce risk of acute acidosis.