Posted By: Rosie Lyle

How healthy are your herds feet?

We have been talking about cattle mobility a lot recently. The Shepton Top10 meeting showed as a practice we have made big progress in this area but how can you know what to priorities to continue to improve as a herd in this area?

A foot trimming records review and foot trimming skills check is a good place to start when trying to understand a herd’s mobility and this is something that I am doing on farm as part of the government funded animal health and welfare pathway- health and welfare review. This is just one of the topics that we have been delivering on farms as part of this scheme.

Beyond this the Healthy Feet programme is a structured approach which will help dairy farmers make important progress towards diagnosing the problems, devising an action plan, and developing the skills necessary for long-term lameness control. I have recently completed the training to become a Mobility mentor. Mobility mentors facilitate the whole process and act as advisers to support working towards improved mobility on farm.

The approach is based around the 'four success factors’. These are: Low infection pressure, Good horn quality and hoof shape, Low forces on the feet – good cow comfort and cow flow and Early detection and prompt, effective treatment of lame cows. Your foot lesion type will determine which areas to focus the farms efforts on.

I delivered this programme on one of my routine dairy farms recently. Using the trimming records and looking at some feet, we established that digital dermatitis was the predominant issue at this time on this farm. We carried out a farm assessment including an assessment of the current footbathing regime and its effectiveness. Using the success factors most relevant to this farm; Low infection pressure and EDPET we devised a plan; a few actions which the farm had agreed would be achievable.

The action plan included: Increasing the frequency of foot bathing, changing the footbath chemical, using the footbath on farm with the best cow flow and prompt and effective treatment of individual cases of DD. Although it is still early days, the farmer reports that they are already observing an improvement in cases.

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