Friday, 30 December 2016

Tackling lameness: a foot trimmer perspective

When tackling lameness on-farm, foot trimmers are the ‘go to’ for cow hoof care. However, foot trimmer and Director of ‘The Hoofman Ltd, Charlie Harding, believes that farmers, vets, nutritionists and consultants can better utilise the information gathered during foot trimmers visit, to have a more targeted approach.

“Lameness cases vary from farm to farm. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to lameness management, and often the sharing of information as a collaborative approach is the key to resolving issues,” says Charlie Harding.

Proactive use of data

After each visit, the trimmer should produce a report detailing which cows who have been seen and if there are any lameness issues present.

“This report is produced for the farmer to help inform them of the current herd lameness status,” explains Charlie. However, he acknowledges that in reality, often the reports are put into the farm office only to be brought out for the milk buyer and farm assurance visits. 

“They’re not being utilised as effectively as they could, and as a result, cases aren’t followed up, patterns and trends aren’t identified and re-occurring cows aren’t managed,” he says.

“We’re aware that farmers are time poor, but lameness shouldn’t be neglected. We’re seeing that if producers buy into a team approach and knowledge is shared, an effective lameness plan can be implemented and managed, making a difference long term.

“When I’m on farm, I make an effort to share the information directly to the other parties who are involved in herd health planning.

“If I can discuss cases with the vet directly, I can be specific in my analysis. The vet can then effectively advise the farmer of the best approach to minimise risk factors causing lameness and as a result, treat the cows appropriately,” he adds.

Farm specific issue

Charlie notes that often farmers talk about the issue as a whole, rather than on a case-by-case basis, so often there isn’t a targeted approach to treatment and control methods.

“Lameness comes in many shapes and forms, and often the way to minimise those cases is for foot trimmers to be as specific as possible in their assessment. As a trimmer, I see first-hand what the main lameness problems are on-farm, and I’d encourage farmers to talk to their foot trimmer to find out what specific cases they’re seeing,” he says. 

He explains that the recent changes to the Nation Association of Cattle Foot Trimmers (NACFT) code of working practice, which outline the correct foot-trimming techniques, is having a positive impact on how trimmers approach specific lameness problems.

The NACFT are looking at all it members been registered mobility scores allowing hoof trimmers to become on farm mobility managers.

One addition to the guidelines is recommendation to administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), such as ketoprofen, alongside trimming and application of a block, as it’s been proven to quicken recovery and reduce the risk of relapse.

“This is where a close working relationship with the farm vet means we can discuss the best approach to a large number of claw horn lesions, for example, so the vet can make recommendations to the farmer to include ketoprofen treatment,” he says.

Preparing for the visit

Alongside foot trimmers and vets working together, Charlie believes that farmers also have a proactive role in mobility scoring and selecting cattle for the trimmer to see, to get the most from their visit. 

“We only tend to visit farms once a month, so to have a positive outcome and reduce lameness cases overtime, farmers need to utilise our skills while we’re on-farm,” he says.

He suggests that this can start with daily monitoring of the herd through accurate mobility scoring, to be able to identify any cows who aren’t quite right and need treating before they become chronic. 

“As an industry, we’re now trying to educate farmers on the importance of early identification of score 2 cows, so we can prevent future clinical cases. These are the cases who need to be treated promptly to prevent them turning into a score 3 cow, and becoming clinical.”

Charlies says that farmers tend to get into the habit of lining up cows who are written in the diary due for a trim, rather than giving the trimmer cows who are lame or not walking quite right that need corrective treatment. 

“If regularly mobility scoring can be implemented, and cows who need prompt treatment can be confidently identified, it can play a big role in reducing the number of clinical cases. Trimmers will then be treating the cows who need treatment, which will have a positive effect on reducing lameness prevalence. 

“The sooner a cow is identified as ‘not walking right’, the sooner treatment can be given and there is a greater chance of quick recovery. If mobility scoring can be implemented into the daily routine, you’ll see the positive effect it has on herd health, and on the bottom line.”

“Ultimately, it’s all about early detection, and prompt effective treatment.”

Charlie believes in a targeted team approach, with vets and trimmers and other farm consultants sharing knowledge and data to help farmers get on top of the issue, as this will lead to a reduction in the prevalence of lameness cases.

“If as an industry, we work together and share our knowledge and information then I do believe we’ll see a positive effect and a reduction in cases on UK dairy farms.”

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