September 25, 2022


A Discussion on Lame Cows: Part 2


After we have identified what type of lesions we have on our dairies, we can start to look at our management practices that may play a role in causing some of the issues.

On many dairies, we move cattle on a regular basis. How we handle ourselves when moving cattle plays a large role in whether we are part of the solution – or part of the problem. We need to make sure that we adjust ourselves to the cows, rather than the other way around.  The human pace is naturally faster than the pace of a cow. If we expect cattle to move at our pace instead of their own, they are more likely to injure themselves. For example, you are more likely to slip and fall if you are running as opposed to walking.

In addition to slowing ourselves down, we should focus on decreasing the amount of stress we create for the cows. Loud yelling, waving our arms, loud whistling, and walking in blind spots all increase the stress cows feel when we move them. If we do our best to limit these stressors, they will move more comfortably. Decreasing lame cow numbers on our dairies is all about increasing cow comfort.

Paying attention to our body language is important when working with cows, but looking at overall farm practices matters when discussing lameness issues on a dairy as well. Are we forcing our cows to stand for hours? Are we using a crowd gate too aggressively? Are we forcing cows to reach for feed? Are we asking cows to walk on rough surfaces for long distances?

Similar to humans, long standing hours can be a lot of work for the girls! Not only does it limit production, but it stresses the feet and legs to stand on hard surfaces for long periods of time rather than being able to lay down. Both too much time spent in the holding area/parlor, and overcrowded pens can lead to excessive standing time. Evaluating our cows’ time allocation can reveal whether or not our cows are standing too long.

Pushing cows into the parlor with a crowd gate, rather than giving them room to stand also puts extra pressure on the feet. Similarly, forcing cows to reach for feed puts unneeded pressure on the feet and legs. Both can lead to increased white line disease on the dairy. Walking long distances and/or walking on rough surfaces puts extra wear and tear on the feet which makes thin soles more likely to be causing problems.

Although each dairy is so very different, we are all striving to create the best environment for happy, high producing cows. Taking a deeper look into our own management practices can be an eye opening experience – we may have solutions to our lameness problems right under our nose!

-Cam Sorensen

Western Wisconsin Nutrition, Dairy Nutritionist

**To see part one of this discussion, please head over to the archived news section!