Cow hooves are not made for standing on concrete and other hard surfaces. Pressure lameness is very painful for cows and leads to many other possible diseases and infertility. It is killing for cows, and that has substantial consequences for dairy farmers.
Costs for the farmer
Donna M. Amaral-Phillips (Ph.D.) of the University of Kentucky says: “Besides being an animal welfare issue, a lame cow has been estimated to cost $185 for a first lactation cow and $333 for a mature cow when accounting for reductions seen in milk production and reproductive performance and increased risk of being culled from the herd.”
In her article on https://afs.ca.uky.edu/content/dynamics-of-lameness-in-dairy-cows, she provides a great summary of the dynamics of lameness.
Hours spent resting
We have been working on lameness prevention for 20 years with CowSignals® insights and methods. And we have always advocated that cows need to rest as much as possible. In the media, we occasionally see discussions about resting time. One counterargument we sometimes hear is that a longer resting time is not always a sign of good health. While this is true, it does not contradict our views. Amaral-Philips explains why:
“Lame cows often change their lying behavior depending on the degree of lameness. Lame cows may increase the length of time of each lying bout and decrease the number of lying bouts per day. Scientists have hypothesized that this change in behavior stems from the reluctance of these cows to stand after lying down because it is painful to stand or lie down.”
So the big take home message is that on many dairy farms, cows should on average get more resting hours a day, divided over more separate lying bouts.
There are multiple ways to achieve this; every farm is different, every farm has strong and weak points in management. That is why we teach farmers, farm staff, and farm advisors to observe cows and farms in a structured way, and to look at the whole dairy management picture: housing, handling, feeding, et cetera. This way, instead of just detecting and treating lameness, we can learn to prevent it.
Do you want to prevent lameness as well? Check out our online courses CowSignals®, HoofSignals, and Stressfree Stockmanship.