Lameness is a “disease” that reduces overall profitability of a dairy operation. Effects of lameness can be subtle and have many levels of severity. Invariably, lameness is associated with pain, decreased dry matter intake, loss of body condition and decreased milk production with increased reproductive failure and mastitis, often leading to expensive treatment or early culling.

Factors affecting lameness and locomotion include nutrition, environment, claw trimming and health events resulting in production of poor quality horn (fever, off-feed, metabolic disturbances, toxins/mycotoxins).

Nutrition is one of the major factors that can play a role in dairy cow lameness. There is much discussion about the relationship between nutrition and lameness as related to level of effective fibre, amount of grain, fermentation rates of grain, forage-to-grain ratios in the dairy cow ration and a subsequent acidosis – “laminitis” link.

It is very evident that certain feeding regimes, diets, metabolic upsets and infectious diseases result in significant and prolonged drops in rumen pH, dramatically increasing the incidence of lameness. Nocek (1997) summarised these insults into a diagrammatic cascade of events that often lead to ruminal and metabolic conditions resulting in lameness in dairy cows (see opposite).

Key factors in this cascade are feeding management, moulds/mycotoxins (feed/forage quality), infectious diseases and metabolic disorders, environment and genetics. Many of these variables lead to ruminal upsets resulting in death of gram negative bacteria and production of endotoxins/exotoxins resulting in a vaso-constriction/dilation response within the claw. This upset in blood and nutrient flow results in production of poor quality horn and, if severe enough, death of laminar horn tissue and acute lameness.

Lameness in the dairy

Lameness is an issue of extreme importance in every dairy, and routine and proactive hoofcare management can positively impact almost all other management areas. Dairy producers who take an aggressive approach to foot management can attest to the fact that cows with healthy, pain-free feet, eat better, milk better and breed better.

Florida research indicates that replacing inorganic forms of zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt with those from Zinpro Performance Minerals, beginning in the dry period and continuing through lactation, reduced incidence and severity of claw disorders. For example, overall incidence of claw disease was decreased by 30,8%, as early as 75 days postpartum with a further reduction of 43,5% by 250 days-in-milk.

Zinpro and Chemuniqué are committed to improving the success of dairies by enhancing foot health and other performance factors through quality trace mineral supplementation. Talk to your nutritionist or feed sales representative about the inclusion of Zinpro performance minerals in the diets of your dairy cattle.

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