FARMS with the least levels of cattle lameness are those that detect the problem early and treat immediately or as soon as possible, Dr Nick Bell of the Royal Veterinary College told dairy farmers at a Dugdale Nutrition meeting in Settle.

Dr Bell said that the early stages of sole ulcers on hooves could be difficult to detect. However early clues could be slight changes in how the cow behaved and moved.

If sole ulcers could be found at this stage there was every chance that the problem could be treated successfully using an anti-inflammatory injection.

“I think that we have to re-write the veterinary text book which largely blamed nutritionists for cattle lameness. Now we can say that nutritionists are only partly to blame! It is clear that there are a lot of theories. including trauma, stress and long standing times on hard surfaces.

“Work at Bristol University has shown that there are periods in the cow’s lactation cycle when they are more vulnerable to lameness. The study looked at maiden heifers 12 weeks and four weeks before calving and four weeks and 12 weeks after calving. It has shown that there is a high risk of damage to feet from four weeks before calving to four weeks after calving,” he said.

Related work considered the lying time of cows and looked at ways of reducing the time standing on hard surfaces.

The value of early detection and treatment was also stressed by Dr Arturo Gomez Rivas, of Zinpro, who spoke about digital dermatitis. It was estimated that at least 70 per cent of farms harboured treponemes, the causative organism.

The meeting was one of a series held by Dugdale Nutrition’s Intelligent Feeding Forum.