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Dairy Winter Housing: Getting on Top of Lameness and Keeping it Low

Andrew Dale milks 110 Fleckvieh and Fleckvieh-cross cows near Limavady in partnership within his parents.  Rolling yields are around 6,500 litres with the aim to breakthrough 7,000 litre threshold soon.  The farm is focused on maximising output from forage with extended grazing and quality silage made.  Zero grazing has been introduced in the past two years to help achieve this aim on this fragmented farm.  In Spring 2017, Andrew identified a build-up of Digital Dermatitis (DD) related lameness and levels were unacceptably high for him. He contacted Provita and availed of the complimentary parlour and mobility scoring.  After the cows were scored it was confirmed that DD was indeed high with 70% of cows displaying various stages of DD.  Andrew was committed to reducing this figure by all means necessary.

Initially the cows were spot sprayed with Hoofsure Endurance at 25% dilution for 2 weeks followed by daily footbathing.  “We could see rapid progress within a few weeks, initially the active stages dropped down to 35%, and then further to 5% to 10%” confirmed Andrew. “We now manage to keep levels to this low percentage the majority of the year, with small intermittent rises when in the middle of autumn peak calving and full time winter housing commences.  But I know by keeping an eye on it, spraying more cows in the parlour, increasing the footbath frequency I get on top of it quickly.  Currently I am running the footbath daily at 2-3% as I have numerous freshly calved and early lactation cows going through which I want to keep right from day 1 and I know it will pay off as the winter months pass.”  Andrew has also noticed that the cows mobility is much improved, they are much more settled in the parlour and at the feed bunk and he has culled less cows due to lameness also.

Milking cows are footbathed 5-7 days per week and dry cows and heifers at least once a week. Andrew commented, “by regularly footbathing the dry cows and heifers has made a big difference and was quite easy to implement.  I now see less problems with freshly calved animals with DD and lameness and cows calf down with less problems too.  We have new heifer accommodation built on farm for this Autumn and I have made arrangements to have footbathing facilities in it.”

At the start of the programme back in 2017 there was a fair investment made in the product but by sticking with the recommendations we have seen very good results. I find the contact from Provita staff beneficial as it is an extra incentive to make sure you stick to the plan so that you don’t allow the DD levels to start to increase again. Also a fresh set of eyes can see things that you miss whenever you are trying to juggle all the various jobs that need done on a daily basis around the farm. With the feet right, the cows are performing better, overall health is very good and I believe every animal is nearing their full potential. I am now in the fortunate position where I can be more selective in breeding strategy as I can afford to let go of under-performing cows and hit the herd target of 7,000 litres per cow sooner rather than later.”

For more information please contact George Shaw, Technical Adviser on 078 4192 6219 or Provita on 0800 328 4982.

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