Mobility Scoring

Over the past few years a variety of scoring systems have been devised to assess lameness prevalence - the number of animals lame at any one time - in a given herd.These are useful in identifying the problem animals, assessing the severity of their mobility problem and monitoring the effectiveness of lameness treatments.

However, in order to clarify the confusion which exists over the variety of systems intended to measure lameness in dairy herds, AHDB Dairy has developed an industry standard mobility scoring system to replace previous methods.

The AHDB Dairy Mobility Scoring system, which was developed with the University of Bristol in conjunction with farmers, veterinary surgeons and other animal health and welfare organisations, is different to the locomotion scoring systems used by breed societies when assessing an animal. It simply assesses the cow's ability to move easily, without attempting to account for factors influenced by an animal's breeding or conformation in the manner of locomotion scoring.

The system has been designed so that anyone with experience of working with dairy cattle is able to perform it effectively. It allows the mobility assessment to be carried out on a regular basis - ideally at least monthly - by someone, preferably independent of the farm, who has the opportunity to see every individual cow in the herd. To enable the assessment to be performed accurately and consistently, a suitable adequately-lit, flat area with a hard, non-slip floor surface is required, where cows can be observed as they walk past, preferably as part of their ordinary, routine movements so that they behave and move naturally.

The Mobility Score is a four point score ranging from 0 to 3:

  • A cow scoring 0 will have good mobility and will walk with even weight-bearing rhythm on all four feet, with a flat back, whereas;
  • A cow scoring 3 will be unable to keep up with the healthy herd and will either show uneven weight-bearing on a limb that is immediately identifiable, or will walk with shortened strides and an arched back.

By simplifying the scoring system, dairy farmers are able to easily assess cow mobility on-farm without the need for professional help. However, farm vets are also able to use the scoring records to monitor improvements in lameness incidence and to help formulate strategies to tackle longer-term mobility challenges in individual herds.

The benefits of the Mobility Scoring system include:

  • The early detection of any mobility problems resulting in prompt identification and treatment.
  • The ability to prioritise cases for treatment.
  • Any poor mobility trends can be monitored and the causes identified.
  • The provision of figures for benchmarking performance.
  • An increase in the awareness of herd foot health and farm staff motivation to improve herd mobility.
  • Its suitability for all herd types and situations.

However, it must be stressed that any form of lameness prevalence scoringis subjective and is ultimately dependent on the skills and perception of the scorer, andcan also be time-consuming to undertake on the whole herd, particularly in larger herds.