Regular mobility scoring is the foundation of herd foot health

The national cost of lameness is approximately 15% of the overall cost of milk production.

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 9:57 am

Vet Roland Vinkesteijn explains how farmers can save money and make a huge difference to cow welfare by focusing on reducing lameness within herds.

“We know that on average between 32% and 36% of cows in a UK dairy herd are lame, but there is a lot of variation, with some herds having barely any lame cows, while in others over 50% are lame,” he says.

“On average, each case of lameness costs £330. This is based on lameness costing £2.20/cow/day and an average lameness incident lasting five months.”

Mr Vinkestein explains that the actual treatment costs are only a small percentage of the total cost of lameness. It is hidden expenses such as increased risk of premature culling, reduced fertility and reduced milk yields causing the larger impact.

“Early detection and prompt effective treatment is vital to reduce the impact of lameness. Regular mobility scoring supports early detection and subsequent management of lameness,” he says.

“Mobility scoring is a simple system of inspection of how cows walk. It enables the farmer and vet to detect which cows are lame and the severity of impairment to movement.”

One of the most common scoring systems is the AHDB Dairy four-point system with scores ranging from zero to three. Mr Vinkestein recommends scheduling this in as a monthly routine.

“Find a time and a place to allow for 6 to 10 uninterrupted strides on a hard non-slip surface where you can observe the side and rear of the cow. She should make one turn in her trajectory.

“Any cows scored as two or three should be treated as soon as possible, while score zero and one cows can simply be tallied up.”

For Mr Vinkestein, the key benefit of mobility scoring is that it enables early identification, facilitating intervention such as foot trimming.

“Mobility scores can also be collected as data for benchmarking. In turn, measuring herd mobility can help motivate farm staff to prioritise foot health as they will understand the level of foot health in the herd and how to improve.

“One limitation of mobility scoring is that it does not give any indication to the cause of lameness, which can only determined by picking up and inspecting the feet.”

Parklands Veterinary Group can support with setting up a mobility scoring system and can also offer regular independent mobility scoring.

“If you’re mobility scoring on farm, it is worth speaking to your vet for advice on treatment. We can also perform risk assessments to examine the environmental and management impacts on lameness.

“The information gained can be used to prioritise the interventions with the highest impact in reducing lameness in the herd, with both animal welfare and profitability benefits,” concludes Mr Vinkestein.