Early Detection of Recognising Lameness

Mobility Scoring sessions are an important part of mobility control or herd health planning. They provide an important means of recognising lameness. 

Day-to-day observation by competent and conscientious herdspeople and staff can be vital in noticing changes in the way individual cows move, their ability or willingness to walk or stand up and other major or minor changes which can indicate general health problems or specific mobility issues.

Particularly if cows become suddenly lame - due to injury or acute illness - in the interval between scheduled scoring sessions.

Whether lameness is noticed during everyday farm routines or during a planned Mobility Scoring session, it is important that prompt attention is given to the causes of lameness as early detection, recognition and treatment of problems will lead to a reduction in the potential losses in terms of production, fertility and cost of treatment.

Early recognition and prompt treatment may indeed lead to a full or partial cure in many cases where, should the condition go untreated, the condition may become particularly painful, untreatable or lead to premature culling of the affected cow. Nearly all lameness problems originate around, in or between the claws, and therefore a simple, safe - for the operator as well as the cow - and effective system for handling and inspecting cows' feet will encourage prompt inspection and treatment, particularly where farm staff members have little time for non-routine work.

The symptoms of lameness can include limping, reluctance to move, abnormal foot placement, spine arching, head nodding and a difference in the speed of limb swinging. At the very earliest signs of lameness, these characteristics may be so very slight that only particularly careful observation or a very experienced handler may be aware of them. In order to pick-up these very mild signs of a problem, there have been several technological developments.

Where specific or more advanced problems are present, it is important to recognise the conditions that are responsible for causing the problem, as different illnesses have different control strategies.

Existing on-farm records of past mobility problems may indicate the causes of current problems, and there are several on-line reference sources for the recognition of specific problems. However, where only slight indications of a problem are present, it may be more difficult for an individual to identify the problem and the advice of a vet or foot-trimmer may be necessary.

It is important to acknowledge that in several studies, it has been found that dairy farmers and herd managers typically underestimate the incidence of lameness on their own farm.