Understanding the Hoof to Treat Lameness Weekly farm


LAST issue we discussed how to prevent lameness by understanding cow behavior and trying to cultivate a little patience. Now we move from the head to the hoof, with a dissection of the anatomy of the hoof and treatment of the disease.

To get started, let’s take a look at the normal hoof. Hooves are made of keratin – the same material as our hair and nails. In fact, it can be helpful to think of a cow’s hoof as a giant fingernail!

Keratin grows from the “nail bed” (or “corium”), which includes the band of flesh just above the hoof and a layer on the inside of the sole. If the cow is under nutritional stress, it can impact the growth of new cells, resulting in a visible stress line or hoof wall rupture as she grows – about five millimeters each month.

Just like when we cut our nails, trimming an overgrown hoof is a painless exercise. However, if we nick the nail bed, it will hurt and bleed. One method of determining the correct length is to place your hand around the front of the hoof. The distance from the tip of the claws to the top of the hoof should be just over four fingers (depending on your hand size). When cutting, be careful not to cut too short – and if in doubt, it’s best to leave a little more.

After taking a shower, our nails become soft. The same is true for hooves – which is why more lame cows appear with bruises and other foot injuries during months of heavy rainfall. Infectious bacteria also thrive in humid conditions, which is why you can sometimes see foot rot spreading throughout the herd – like athlete’s foot in the locker rooms at your local swimming pool.

As a vet, I am always happy to see farmers take care of lame cows themselves. It’s backbreaking work and that means they’re seen quickly. However, it is important to have the right equipment – usually a pulley, leg rope, chest strap, sharp hoof knife, angle grinder, gloves and goggles, hoof testers. and mowers and a variety of blocks or blocks for cows.

So if you don’t see a lot of cows, it might not be worth the expense. It might be more efficient to leave the capital expenditure to a professional hoof trimmer or the local vet. If a farmer decides to buy the equipment, then he keeps it well maintained – there is nothing more frustrating than scraping a hoof with a blunt instrument. Tools should also be cleaned between cows to prevent disease transmission.

Safety is paramount in the treatment of lameness. You’re going to be using sharp knives and power tools, so do very make sure the hoof and cow are securely attached before entering. Never trust the latches of a crush – I’ve seen too many springs open unexpectedly. A little extra string is cheap insurance and will keep dental bills to a minimum.

If your angle grinder has a power cord, be careful of the surrounding water. Wear dorky safety glasses – if you have sprayed cow mud in your eyeballs, they itch for the rest of the day. It’s a bit disgusting, really, and it’s best to avoid it.

The principles of dealing with lame cows are simple. You want to remove damaged tissue, open and drain abscesses, treat infections, remove any foreign material, trim hooves into the right shape, and minimize pain. The actual practicalities of this operation are best demonstrated in person on a real hoof and I would be slightly horrified to learn that someone has come out and tended their lame cows based on an article (don’t let me know if you do that!).

Dairy Australia has a great course (with videos) called ‘Healthy Clogs’ – ask your local regional development program if they can organize a session for you. It includes a practical component where you can try your hand at using the tools under expert supervision. There are also some surprisingly entertaining YouTube videos if you google “the hoof general practitioner” (but if you’re squeamish I recommend you don’t watch them during meals).

Some cases of lameness are best seen by a qualified veterinarian. If you don’t see any obvious signs of damage in the hoof, it could be caused by a problem higher up in the leg, and if there is significant swelling in the joint, it’s usually a very bad sign.

Weird growths coming out of exposed flesh, anything unresponsive to treatment, problems in several feet, or lots of lame cows at once are other situations where it’s a good idea to get someone to. to take a look at. Give it a try, but be careful and know your limits. Like many health problems, waiting too long can has been a problem treatable into a costly culling decision.

* Ee Cheng Ooi is a bovine veterinarian undertaking a PhD in Fertility and Genetics at DairyBio. All comments and information contained in this article are of a general nature only. Please consult the farm veterinarian for advice, protocols and / or treatments tailored to the specific needs of the herd. Comments and feedback are welcome, email [email protected]

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The story Understanding the Hoof to Treat Lameness first appeared on Farm Online.


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