A new project to recognise and treat pain in lame dairy cows has been launched by veterinary group Vet Partners.
The Project Feet initiative aims to better understand attitudes within the sector towards recognising and treating pain by the entire herd management team – including farmers, foot trimmers, veterinary technicians and vets.
About one in four dairy cows may be experiencing some degree of lameness at any one time, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Contributory factors include poor cattle housing, hard surfaces, ineffective foot trimming and poor nutrition.
The average cost – in terms of treatmen, loss of yield and potential for shortened productive life – may be about £180 per cow. At current levels, this equates to almost £15,000 for an average-sized herd.
Elephant in the room
Project Feet was founded and developed by a team led by Norfolk vet and ruminant specialist Emily Craven, of the Oakwood Veterinary Group, Harleston. It will focus on the treatment and management of lame cows, she said.
“Lameness in dairy owners remains the ‘elephant in the room’ where we know the national prevalence is high – but we are often guilty of thinking of it as someone else’s problem,” said Ms Craven.
“It is a welfare issue for cows, a perception issue for dairy farming and is something that we need to collectively take ownership of.”
Reducing lameness takes two approaches – treating and managing lame cows; and preventing new cases. Ms Craven said the project was inviting people who work with lame dairy cows to complete a short survey.
The anonymous survey aims to uncover what people think of certain conditions and how to approach the treatment of various diseases. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and all completed entries will go into a prize draw to win £100 in shopping vouchers.
VetPartners farm director Ian Cure said: “Lameness is something that directly effects on-farm efficiency for all our dairy clients. By working together to improve mobility and foot health, we also reduce the risk of other diseases, such as mastitis and transition diseases.”
For survey details and to take part, visit bit.ly/ProjectFeet