Economic Impact of Lameness
Summary by Hanna Cronk, UNL undergraduate student
To kick off the Increasing Profitability webinar series, Dr. Jan Shearer of Iowa State University spoke about the economic impact of lameness. Dr. Shearer covered different types of lameness, the impact of lameness on a dairy’s bottom line, and prevention of lameness.
Early detection is important for reducing economic loss. Claw lesions, digital dermatitis, and foot rot are all concerns for causes of lameness. Digital dermatitis, also known as hairy heel warts, is very debilitating, and research is ongoing to find better ways to manage it. Footbaths are usually used to treat digital dermatitis. Their effectiveness for control of foot rot is unknown. When using footbaths as treatment for digital dermatitis, it is important to remember that they are most effective for treatment and control of early lesions. Mature and chronic lesions don’t tend to respond as well to footbath treatment. The frequency of use of a footbath depends in part on the disease incidence. For herds suffering a high incidence of digital dermatitis, daily use of a footbath may be advised.
Lameness is the costliest clinical disease of dairy cattle. The average cost of lameness is $500 or more per cow, according to Dr. Shearer’s presentation. This cost is greater than mastitis, displaced abomasum, and other common dairy cattle diseases. Economic losses are primarily due to reduced milk yield, decreased reproductive performance, premature culling, treatment costs and death. A Florida study found that foot rot may decrease milk yield by as much as 10 percent over a lactation. In that study, milk yield was reduced by an average of 1,885 lb./cow representing a loss of $301/cow. When lameness progresses beyond treatment and the animal is unfit for transport to slaughter, euthanasia may be the only choice for producers. Dr. Shearer stated that lameness is often the number one reason for euthanasia on the dairy farms and feedlots.
When dealing with widespread lameness on a dairy operation, it is important to identify the specific conditions and possible causes. For example, if herd lameness is primarily due to sole ulcers or white line disease, issues related to transition cow management and cow comfort should be carefully evaluated. If the problem is predominantly due to digital dermatitis, attention to the details of proper footbath management would be a higher priority. Here is where the services of a foot trimmer and veterinarian can be especially helpful. Early detection and prompt treatment are the key to minimizing economic losses from lameness.
Nuts and Bolts of Corn Silage Quality
Dr. Hugo Ramirez, Assistant Professor at Iowa State University, discusses silage fermentation, factors affecting silage quality and animal response to improved corn silage quality. Below are the 5 C's of corn silage quality recommended by Dr. Ramirez.
- Content of Dry Matter - Maturity
- Chop length and kernel processing - chopping length should be 19 mm or 3/4 inches; kernel processing should be 2 mm or tighter
- Compaction - packing; the goal is at least 15 pounds dry matter per cubic foot
- Covering and sealing - cover and seal as soon as possible, use oxygen barrier and black and white plastic cover
- Care and management at feed-out
Photoperiod Management for Dairy Cattle
Nebraska Dairy Extension recently hosted a dairy barn lighting webinar. Dr. Geoffrey Dahl, Professor in the Animal Science department of the University of Florida, Gainesville discusses the implementation of photoperiod management throughout the life cycle of dairy cows to improve productivity and health for growing heifers, dry cows, and lactating cows, and some of the biology behind those recommendations.