Hooves may be trimmed preventively or curatively. Lameness in cattle can reduce meat, milk production and fertility, and cause reproductive problems, suffering and expense. Trimming is better although it will not prevent all cases of lameness. Exceptions will occur now and then. Our goal is to balance the weight bearing between the inner and outer claws, correct the altered displacement of weight from heel to toe in overgrown claws, return the claws to normal shape and proportions, and to find and correct early lesions.
A good hoof trimming programme is essential in order to prevent lameness and is the most cost effective way to combat foot problems. But it is equally true that lameness problems can result from poor trimming. Intervals at which cows need trimming depend on farm conditions, but a general recommendation by Aled is to have all cows trimmed twice per year, once at drying off and once 80 -120 days calved.
Some cows with poor hoof conformation require more frequent trimming (for example, every 60 to 90 days), and cows with long lactations should be trimmed again prior to drying-off. There are also benefits in some herds to trim heifers before their first calving provided that the job is done by a skilled trimmer.
Lame cows should be trimmed as soon as they are seen lame. Trimming must be carried out by someone who understands the conformation and function of the feet and claws and who knows what the effects of housing conditions are on the horn growth.
Back feet - Lameness occurs in the hind feet more frequently than in the forefeet and in 95-99% of the cases the outer claw of the hind feet is affected. The reason is that the horn of the outer claw grows faster than it wears. Growth and wear of the hind inner claw are more evenly-balanced. The extra horn growth in the outer claw is caused by the way cows walk on hard and sometimes slippery floors.
Front feet - In the forefeet lameness is less frequent. If it does occur, mostly the inner claws are affected, often caused by the cow reaching forward in order to eat. This exercise may lead to overburdened and slightly twisted claws.
The primary aims of good foot trimming are:
Returning hooves to the ideal shape so that they are balanced, better capable of supporting the cow's weight and less likely to be affected by future problems.
Removing horn around an ulcer or lesion in order to reduce any pain caused by the lesion by reducing the pressure on it as the cow transfers weight onto the claw when walking, promoting increased mobility and aiding healing. This may also involve the fitting of a 'block' or similar device to further reduce the trauma of a lesion.
Removing dead and diseased horn and other tissue to promote the growth of healthy new horn.
Removing horn to promote the draining of muck and slurry from around a lesion - and also any pus formed by an infection - to discourage the formation of abscesses.
Some of the more common types of lameness identified on UK farms are:-
Sole ulcer – Often associated with SARA (Sub-Acute Ruminal Acidosis) This is a recurrent low (acidic) rumen pH causing a hostile rumen environment to the good rumen bacteria therefore inhibiting digestion of food, or misshapen or poorly trimmed feet.
White line disease – Sharp stones and tight turns are often associated with this condition in which the hoof wall separates at its weakest point- the white line.
Digital dermatitis – A highly infectious condition often associated with a contaminated environment such as cows standing in slurry or potholes/puddles/dirty gateways along cow tracks.
Laminitis – More prevalent than you would think. Associated with dietary problems e.g. overfeeding of concentrate in the parlour. Associated with SARA.
Foul in the foot – An infection associated with wet conditions/ stony or stubbly ground. Increased risk after calving.
Tips for keeping your cow’s feet healthy:
Carry out regular visits with your hoof trimmer.
Improve housing, have good cubicle design and comfortable bedding.This increases the time cows spend lying down reducing pressures on their feet.
Regular foot bathing for digital dermatitis and healthy feet.
Good maintenance of concrete yards and tracks to prevent potholes and stones.
Frequent slurry scraping (standing in slurry softens cows feet and predisposes to infectious disease.
Improve or install cow tracks.
Keep full and accurate records so if there is a problem you can identify it and deal with it early.
Promote good rumen health especially during early lactation by using sound feeding practices to reduce the risk of laminitis.
Locomotion score regularly to identify problems early and treat accordingly.