It’s not just cute calves and milking

Sat, 04/02/2023 - 13:53pm

One of my main tasks as Dairy Manager is maintaining the mobility of the herd. It is my firm belief that good mobility leads to good nutrition which in turn leads to good health.

Cows with good feet and good mobility are able to walk without pain and find the nutrition they need to maintain their body condition and provide milk for their calf. Good health ultimately contributes to good fertility, which is vital if we are to produce good quality milk.

We regularly monitor the cows as they move around from the fields to the milking parlour, and while housed through the winter period. All of the trackways around the farm are maintained to a high standard and are covered with astroturf. This increases the comfort for the cow as they walk around the farm and helps to prevent bruising to the sole of the foot.

Professional hoof trimmers, vets and herdsman use the same scale to mobility score the cows. The scoring method allows both farmers and hoof trimmers to assess the cows and take appropriate action when a cow presents with lameness.

I also routinely trim the cows prior to the dry period at the end of the lactation before they calve again, and at around 100 to 120 days post calving. This maintenance approach to mobility helps to keep the feet in good health. I can identify any problems at an early stage, which will hopefully prevent the need for more drastic intervention.

The most common type of hoof problem we see is bruising of the sole of the foot. It sounds relatively benign, but if left untreated this bruising can cause whiteline infections where the sole becomes extremely soft and can be penetrated by small stones or dirt.

Bruising around the pedal bone can lead to ulcers, which are extremely uncomfortable for the cow and once present, can become a permanent issue which needs regular treatment. Thankfully, with appropriate management and trimming of the cows we rarely see these issues beyond the early stages.

I have a zero tolerance for lameness so cows are treated swiftly once any lameness has been identified. In the past, I’ve worked for larger dairies where specialist skills are required and I specialised in foot trim and gaining a level three professional foot trimmers qualification. However, sometimes even I can come across something that I struggle to deal with, in which case I can call on The Hoof GP.

I’ve known Graeme now for about six years. He’s now something of a social media star in the world of hoof trimming, with his own YouTube channel and a large audience who regularly tune in to see his daily work on farms around the south-west of Scotland. Graeme has visited us a few times now mainly to deal with the bulls on the farm. The current foot trimming crate that I use to hold the cows while I work is too small to handle the bull on the farm, and Graeme is always happy to come along take a look and have an ice cream!

You can see the films Graeme has made of his visits to our farm below, and if you find his work of interest, subscribe to his YouTube channel, The Hoof GP.

I hope to see you on one of our farm tours in the near future and if you ever have any questions about what we do here, feel free to get in touch.

Charles Ellett

Dairy Manager, Rainton Farm