Lameness experts, such as Peter Best, explains around 25 to 30% of dairy cows go lame throughout the year, which reduces milk production around 18% each year. Lameness in dairy cattle can cost up to $650 per year for each lame cow. These costs come from reduced milk production, reduced fertility and treatment costs for the dairy cow.
“You need to identify lameness early. Don’t wait until it’s severe because the impact on fertility and production increases as the lameness progresses. Catch it early and the cost of treatment is minimal, too,” explains Peter Best.
Causes of lameness are varied and it is difficult to eliminate the risks of lameness altogether. However, Rivalea Australia explains that it is possible to reduce the chances of causing lameness in dairy cattle. Reducing the amount of stress on the cow’s hooves as well as ensuring the cows are fed nutritionally appropriate diets that helps improve hooves strength and reduce chances of lameness.
The greatest risks to lameness in dairy cows is when they are moving, particularly from poorly maintained laneways, too much time spent on concrete floors as well as impatience when moving cattle herds. The risk is significantly higher if the cattle’s hooves are not well maintained or are very soft.
Nutrition is also a relevant factor in contributing to dairy cattle lameness. Animal nutrition expert, Tony Edwards of ACE Consulting, explains that laminitis is the main type of lameness associated with nutrition.
“The theory is that a drop in ruminal pH levels causes a die-off of microbes resulting in the production of histamines and endotoxins that interfere with blood flow in the hoof with associated inflammation, swelling, haemorrhages and necrosis. This makes for very painful hooves restricting the movement of the cows and compromising performance,” says Edwards.
Lyndal Hackett, Rivalea Territory Manager explains the best way to prevent laminitis is to provide the dairy cattle with a balance rationed feed.
“Rations that are higher in starches and sugars tend to be lower in neutral detergent fibre (NDF). Generally, this is the ideal diet when you’re aiming for higher production levels. Rations lower in chemical and physically effective NDF reduce chew time and rumination, leading to a reduction in the amount of saliva produced by the animal. Saliva is rich in sodium, potassium, bicarbonates and phosphates and helps to buffer ruminal pH,” says Hackett.
“Nutritionally, the best way to prevent laminitis is to feed a balanced ration. This begins during transition period from calving to lactation. The management of these cows is critical to the adaption of the rumen microflora to a higher NFC (non-fibre carbohydrates) and lower NDF ration, thus reducing the incidence of acidosis after calving and consuming the milking ration.”
Rivalea Australia provides the Optimilk Pre-Calving pellets, which are scientifically formulated to provide transition cows the starch, sugars, protein and anionic salts they need during the last few weeks before calving. The Optimilk pellets include a combination of cereal grains, sodium bicarbonate and acid buf. Rivalea Australia can also provide additional Optimilk diets, such as organic zinc and biotin to help strengthen cattle hooves and prevent laminitis.