Successful control of lameness – focus of farm workshop

Farmers attending this week’s lameness demonstration, hosted by Provita, on the Ardboe farm of Seamus and Gerard Quinn were told that a zero tolerance approach to lameness has resulted in very low levels of lameness on the farm.

The day consisted of several practical demonstrations covering a rollover hooftrimming crush for farmers (Northern Engineering), an in-parlour explanation of the different stages of Digital Dermatitis and hooftrimming (Parklands Vet Group), footbathing of milking cows, dry cows and heifers (Provita) and mobility scoring (CAFRE).

The practical demonstration of the static Cow Tipper wedge type rollover hooftrimming crush that is manufactured by Northern Engineering, showed how easy and stress free hooftrimming for the cow and farmer can be.

Craig Mc Alister from Parklands Veterinary Group outlined the benefits of hooftrimming more regularly. Indeed the latest research shows that trimming when cows are mobility score 1 or 2 will lead to an 80% success rate, however waiting until cows are a mobility score 3 will result in only a 20% success rate. Spaces are now available at a subsidised rate on the practical Lantra approved hooftrimming course run by Craig at Parklands Veterinary Group.

Digital Dermatitis is fast evolving into a condition which can take on a chronic and incurable form, if not treated early enough.

“Early treatment is crucial,” stressed Parklands veterinarian Philip Abernethy.

“The reality is that one visible lesion represents the tip of the iceberg, regarding the presence of Digital Dermatitis within a herd. And, of course, prevention is by far the most effective treatment when it comes to dealing with any disease.

“In practical terms this means ensuring that slurry accumulations are maintained at the lowest possible levels at all times in sheds and the farm yard.

The Parklands’ veterinarian went on to point out that all cows’ feet should be regularly inspected and scored for Digital Dermatitis.

“Washing of cows’ feet is recommended in this regard,” he explained.

All Digital Dermatitis lesions should be treated the instant they are identified. The early stages of the disease can be easily treated by spot spraying. In cases where the disease has been allowed to develop to the chronic stage, the lesions represent a continuous source of infection for other herd members.

Provita’s Tommy Armstrong told the attending farmers that regular footbathing will both prevent and reduce Digital Dermatitis levels within a herd but they must be used right, I.e. Correct depth and dilution rate and ideally use a prewash footbath as it results in 2.5 times more effective foothbathing. Effective footbathing will reduce lameness by 75%.

Philip Abernethy and Tommy Armstrong both confirmed that research on local farms has shown copper levels to be reaching toxic levels in soils where copper sulphate footbaths are being used. Formalin has been officially been recognised as being a cancer causing chemical.

Hoofsure Endurance does not contain any heavy metals, is non-toxic and costs less than copper sulphate.

The current zero tolerance lameness control plan outlined in the farm was implemented after Gerard Quinn attended the Parklands Lameness course and requested a lameness assessment visit by Provita. The plan consists of footbathing milking cows, dry cows and hefiers  5 days a week at 1 to 2% Hoofsure Endurance, spot spraying and weekly hooftrimming. As all these lameness controls tools are easy to use they are done all the time.

Farmers are encouraged to set up easy to use systems and consider taking a similar zero tolerance approach to lameness.

Improving herd mobility is something is achievable and should be targeted positively to help improve farm profitability.