Dairy Cattle - Lameness (PB4020)

Prevention - Foot Trimming

lamecow8.jpg (15552 bytes) The adoption of a routine preventative foot trimming programme can assist in the prevention of lameness caused by misshapen feet.
The principal objectives of trimming are to ensure better distribution of weight across each claw and between outer and inner claw. Hollowing out the underside of the claw ensures that it remains self-cleaning.
As the majority of cases of lameness affect the hind feet the effort should be concentrated on these. Front feet should not be neglected but need only be trimmed if obviously misshapen.

An ideal time to trim feet is when cows are dried off. If for practical reasons it is no possible to deal with all cows, those most at risk should receive priority. These include animals with obviously disfigured feet, those with a history of clinical lameness and those walking abnormally.

A study by Liverpool University showed seasonal differences in foot shape - toe length increases in the last 3 months of winter and the first 3 months of summer. Poor foot shape was also worse where cubicles were uncomfortable and where cows stood for long periods. Such factors should be taken into account in any foot trimming management policy.

Foot trimming is a skilled job and should not be attempted without proper training and handling facilities. Poor trimming can itself cause lameness.

Foot Care Strategy

Good husbandry and management with attention to detail can reduce the incidence and bring about an improvement in animal welfare and a financial benefit:

  • Maintain sound, non-slip conditions under foot
  • Provide comfortable, dry lying area
  • Minimise contact with slurry
  • Plan feeding carefully
  • Use footbaths where appropriate
  • Observe cows walking and examine for the first signs of problems
  • Trim feet regularly
  • Select sires with sound feet and legs and do not breed from cows with a history of severe clinical lameness
  • Keep records of all cases of lameness
  • Introduce heifers to herd conditions 6 week before calving
  • Seek veterinary advice.
ADLib logo Content provided by the Agricultural Document Library
© University of Hertfordshire, 2011