New research (2018) on lameness in dairy cows has shown the importance of preventing the first lifetime lameness incident. Jon Huxley is the new head of the Massey Vet School (another outstanding 1990s graduate from London!) and he brings a wealth of knowledge, research and enthusiasm. He recently outlined a change in our understanding of the progress of lameness. If a cow becomes lame, she grows little spurs on the sole of her toe bone which impacts on the cells below that grow sole horn. So then you get haemorrhage and weak sole which predisposes to lameness and the cycle continues….The good news is that trimming or using cowslips (thus relieving the pressure on those hoof producing cells) has a very beneficial effect.
Other important factors for lameness are the size of the fat pad in the heel (this dissipates force onto the hoof walls, and is linked to BCS) and the thickness of the sole.
What can you do? The importance of track condition, careful use of the backing gate, treating lame cows promptly are still critical. In addition, maintaining BCS will help cushion their feet with the fat pad in the heel. And a new concept to me – Conditioning heifers’ feet by gradually introducing them to walking on concrete before calving.