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32 BC HOLSTEIN NEWS ❆ CHRISTMAS 2021 Hoof Health Focus
Preventing Lameness - Cow Comfort, Hoof Trimming, Footbaths
 If you’re not looking for lame cows, you won’t see them
Mariah Schuurman B.A., Trinity Western University
Dr. Laura Solano wrote in a research article that you can link lameness to floor cleanliness, to stocking density, to feed intake and days in milk. It is recognized that there is no “perfect” solution to good hoof health; what works for some herds may not work for others.
Two Fraser Valley herds with exceptionally good hoof health were recommended to us by local veterinarians for this feature. Our visits with Richard Bosma of Vedderlea Farm and Casey Pruim of Prime Acres Ltd. from Abbotsford, BC identified their tactical hoof-health programs aligned with research findings as presented by Dr. Solano.
Stalls that are used appropriately can help to prevent the development of lameness and injuries.
At Vedderlea, Richard notes that the stalls are ‘double-bedded’ with tires and deep, reclaimed separated manure solids. The tires, he suggests, allow for greater traction to get up, and are comfortable for the cows. When stalls are bedded on Tuesdays and Thursdays, cows are cycled through the foot bath – not at milking times. Lime is also added to the stalls twice daily in order to help control pathogen growth in organic bedding.
The 48” wide stalls at Prime Acres have reclaimed, separated manure solids bedding and individual mats. Casey has found the use of stall mats combined with a deep application of bedding is effective in reducing hock abrasions.
For both Richard and Casey, cow comfort plays a crucial role in hoof health. The application of fans and misters in the summer allow the cows to keep cool and more relaxed when laying in the stalls, thus reducing standing time in the alley.
More than 5% active digital dermatitis lesions is a sign that the footbath is ineffective.
This rings true for the cows at Vedderlea, as the cows walk through two 6ft long plastic troughs with copper sulfate and formaldehyde on Tuesday, and formaldehyde only on Thursday. Richard notes that the dual use of copper sulfate and formaldehyde act “two-pronged” to attack primary and secondary hoof diseases. Farm staff use respirators and handle formaldehyde with extreme caution, as the product is a known carcinogen. He has found incidents of (non- DD) lesions in March 2021 were 5.7% and in July 2021 were 3.0% through the whole herd. No incidences of digital dermatitis have been identified in the last two whole- herd hoof trims.
At Prime Acres, the cows walk through nightly footbaths of soap, and morning footbaths of saltwater. The use of daily soap or salt keeps traffic moving and prevents manure buildup in the exit alley. Alternating between soap and salt, Casey says, the cows have gotten used to the footbath. Four milkings per week since 2020, Casey has implemented a mixture of copper sulfate and Mootrax Footbath Acidifier for his milking herd. The combination reduces the impact of copper on the environment. He previously used formaldehyde but became increasingly uncomfortable with its associated risks and made the switch.
Flooring surfaces can adversely affect the hoof—slopes, steps, slipperiness, sharp turns all increase risk. Vedderlea has grooved floors for comfortable traction and recessed-chain alley scrapers that run 16 times per day,
effectively keeping the floors continuously clean. No manure tsunami, clean legs, cleaner stalls. One of Richard’s priorities is maintaining a low stocking density to reduce competition and bullying. Cows never have to wait for a stall to lay down.
Similarly, at Prime Acres, a renovation/ redesign to the barns now ensures that stocking density in the milking group never exceeds 100% capacity. In the first two years in the rotary, Casey noticed that the cows twisted with the movement of the rotating concrete floor parlour. This led to the development of toe lesions, so Casey added rubber mats to ease the pressure the cows were putting on their feet while milking. As well, initially, the barn was designed with automatic scrapers in mind, but Casey found by keeping his stocking density low, the robotic floor cleaner was not used effectively and switched to a chain scraper.
Prevention is the goal.
Hoof trimming happens three times a year for the whole herd at Vedderlea Farm, including dry cow and heifer groups. The first hoof trimmings begin at around 20 months of age. Richard and his staff actively monitor mobility and Richard trims cows on site at the first signs of a problem. He uses blocks on the good claws to relieve stress on the affected digits. Early detection and early treatment = quick recovery.
At Prime Acres, over the last 10 years, Casey has adopted a practice of having his cows routinely hoof trimmed twice per lactation.
  The interview and pictures at Richard Bosma's Vedderlea Farm took place in October, prior
to the Sumas Prairie flood that overtook his farm and numerous others in mid November.
  This is usually around 50 DIM for the first trim, and around 200 DIM for the second trim. Any cows identified as ‘lame’ are added to the trim list. Heifers are not trimmed until they are at least 60 DIM; hoof treatments for heifers are spot treatments for fungus (digital dermatitis).
Lameness is costly and warrants a dedicated approach.
A 2017 University of Guelph study shows that treating mobility problems in dairy cows is costly. These costs range from treating DD for $214.37, to treating toe lesions at $536.12. Richard suggests that trying to decrease the lameness in the herd will pay for the labour involved. He has a dedicated team to make sure that the hoof health on the farm is top notch.
Outside of the cost per cow, a good hoof health program ensures a high level of animal care. Cows with bobbing heads, shaky legs, or visible limps are uncomfortable on their feet, interfering with normal cow behaviour. Producers also understand that a lame cow will suffer productivity declines from production to fertility and more. A study from the Ontario Veterinary College noted that on average 27.5% of cows were considered lame, while farmers estimated their herd lameness to be around 11.3%. Learning how to identify the early signs of lameness will allow you
and your team to address them quickly for a more uncomplicated recovery.
Both farmers credit the reliable teams behind them with helping ensure that their hoof health programs are carried out. Casey suggests that “better nutrition, cow comfort, and frequent vet visits” are the tactical way he improved hoof health on his farm, and for Richard, a good hoof health program takes dedication to the practice. The bottom line, as discussed in a previous issue of the BC Holstein News is that “Lameness is often multifactorial,” and likely involves multiple risk factors, requiring different steps at each farm. Some farmers may not have automatic scrapers, or sand bedding. Some may prefer using copper sulfate or formaldehyde, but it’s clear that working with your herd health advisors and setting a hoof health program that is prioritized and followed is the most important. Those herds with the least lameness are the most diligent in prevention programs and early treatment protocols.
1 - Casey installed rubber mats in the rotary parlour to improve the toe lesions resulting from the twisting and pressure that cows experienced.
2 - Wide slatted floors with narrow slots remain clean and dry with frequent scrapings at Prime Acres, reducing one important risk factor for digital dermatitis.
3 - Richard uses 2–6’ plastic troughs with textured floors for hoof baths to be sure all hooves get two dunks in good quality solution.
4 - Excessive standing time is not a problem at Vedderlea, thanks to roomy stalls with deep, soft, clean bedding in an uncrowded barn.

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