Newly funded: Improving dairy cattle welfare by addressing lesion-related lameness
Dairy cow hoof health is a critical concern on dairy farms. Lameness due to poor hoof health affects animal welfare, diminishes a farm’s profitability, and increases greenhouse gas emissions. Gerard Cramer, DVM, DVSC, a hoof health expert in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, received approximately $65,000 from the Council of Dairy Cattle Breeding to develop the framework for a larger project seeking to better understand causes of lameness and the impact of chronic hoof-horn lesions on animal welfare. Partnering with 15 hoof trimmers and 150 dairy farms, the research group will study approximately 300,000 cows over a four-year period to see if routine hoof trimming at a set point in time reduces the rate of new lesions—and whether therapeutic hoof trimming every four to eight weeks after discovering a hoof lesion staves off recurrence.
In addition to assessing the effectiveness of different hoof trimming routines at reducing lameness, the team will also establish a data collection system integrating hoof trimming records with current on-farm electronic herd-management data systems. They will compare the ability to assess hoof lesions and lameness prevalence in a herd using traditional observation of a cow’s locomotion to electronic hoof lesion assessment systems integrated with farm-health data collection software. During the course of the study they will meet regularly with hoof trimmers, veterinarians, and farm personnel to provide training and gather input. The outcomes of the project will ultimately lead to improved hoof trimming techniques and lameness protocols. Integrated on-farm data systems combined with genetic data collected by the Council of Dairy Cattle Breeding will guide development of a genetic foot-health index. Ultimately, the study should improve overall animal welfare on dairy farms and increase the industry’s sustainability and profitability.