Ever since I started with CowSignals®, preventing hock injuries was one of the major points of attention. And while I have seen a lot of farms improve over the years, hock damage is still far too common. A while ago, I stumbled upon a research report by the University of British Columbia from 2013, and I think it’s well worth sharing it again.
(Read the full article here: https://hoards.com/article-9904-preventing-hock-injuries.html ).
Benchmarking hock damage
The researchers benchmarked hock injuries and preventive measures on more than a hundred farms in the USA (British Columbia, California, North Eastern US). They used a 3 point scoring system:
Score 1 = healthy hock
Score 2= hock injury (hair loss)
Score 3 = severe hock injury (evidently swollen)
Results show that the prevalence of hock injuries ranged from 42% up to 81% in the different states! These are shocking numbers. How could it be that these injuries are so common? No farmer should accept this. It is saddening to know that so many animals are in pain every day. Moreover, hock damage has serious consequences for the farmer; lower feed efficiency, lower resistance…many farmers are losing money on this every day.
Learning from the best
So what can we do to make things better? Luckily, in every state there were also some producers that achieved good levels of success. The report stated:
“The good news is that in some farms within each of the regions had very low rates of either hock or knee lesions, suggesting that other producers in these regions could learn from these more successful producers.”
So it all starts with education. Learning from other farmers who get the best results, to improve yourself and make your life and your cows’ lives easier.
And how do the farmers with little to no hock damage get their results? The researchers found that “the risk of hock injuries can be greatly reduced by using deep bedding, and that lesions are more common on farms using poorly bedded surfaces like mats and mattresses.” They went on: “In the NE, use of deepbedded stalls reduced the odds of hock lesions by 95%! Other management practices linked to reduced hock injuries included clean bedding, access to pasture during the dry period, and avoiding the use of automatic scrapers for manure removal.”
So there you go: deepbedded stalls reduce the odds of hock lesions by 95%! That is why we will always keep preaching; “one deep soft bed for every cow”. Good bedding management makes all the difference for cow health, cow welfare, and the farmer’s wallet. Start today.