Lameness is painful and uncomfortable for animals, and result in disturbed resting, feeding and social patterns; reduced fertility; lowered milk yields; and an increased likelihood of being culled.
The majority of lameness in dairy cows, however, is the result of poor hoof care and from pathogenic bacterial challenges.
Dairy industry experts recommend dairy cows have their hooves trimmed at least once a year, but trimming several times a year is better.
The hoof is designed to distribute that weight as evenly as possible, so the more hours a cow stands, the more quickly her hoof will grow. The harder and the rougher the surface a cow has to stand on will also increase hoof growth.
Cows that spend many hours standing on hard concrete will grow hoof more rapidly than a cow that spends most of her time standing in a dirt lot or pasture.
Hairy heel wart
According to information from Scott Poock, associate professor and University of Missouri Veterinary Medicine State Specialist, digital dermatitis, or hairy heel warts, is a contagious superficial inflammation of the heel. Two types of lesions have been observed with this disease. In some cases, the lesions are proliferative with wartlike projections; in other cases, they are more erosive with an ulcer like appearance.
“Foot hygiene is critical in dermatitis prevention and control because cows with clean feet are less likely to contract digital dermatitis. Also, reduction of high-moisture conditions is mandatory,” he has said. “This disease is contagious and can be spread from infected cattle to noninfected cattle, so take extreme care when purchasing new herd additions and ensure that hoof-trimming equipment is sterilized between farms and cows.”
The bacterium causing the heel wart are ubiquitous and cannot be eliminated, but the conditions that favor the establishment of heel warts can be managed.
To prevent the movement of the disease, producers are encouraged to providing dry and clean walking and bedding environment, and eliminate or reduce incidence of digital dermatitis in dairy herds. Copper sulfate foot baths can also be used to reduce the appearance of heel wart.
Laminitis, or founder, is a disease condition of the claw and begins with a disturbance in the microcirculation of the foot that leads to inflammatory changes at the hoof soft tissue junction and results in impaired horn production and hemorrhage in the sole and hoof walls, which causes double soles, sole ulcers and abscesses.
According to Poock, the classical cause of laminitis is associated with feeding high levels of carbohydrates (ground grains), which results in rapid fermentation. The faster fermentation increases the level of lactic acid in the rumen, which triggers endotoxin release along with histamine response. All of this results in disturbance in the microcirculation of the foot and produces laminitis. Endotoxemia, which often follows severe mastitis and metritis, is also associated with laminitis. The circumstances that lead to endotoxemia are often observed as acute conditions resulting in severe lameness.
Grass founder is a chronic form of laminitis associated with dramatic changes in nutrition, such as from poorly palatable stored winter forage to highly palatable lush spring pasture. Spring pasture is high in protein and soluble carbohydrates, both of which are considered factors that contribute to laminitis.