Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
- Lameness in cattle can be divided into two main categories, namely infectious and non-infectious lameness.
- Various types of injuries can cause trauma and lead to lameness.
- Dr Lategan says lameness can be a sign of a number of diseases, conditions or even poor nutrition management, and therefore each case must be treated on its own merits.
- Healthy nutrition, and the correct management thereof, is an important and often overlooked aspect in the prevention of lameness.
- Prevention is still the best way to combat lameness in cattle.
Lameness in cattle occurs quite frequently in the wetter parts of the country, with veterinarians in the drier parts of South Africa saying they rarely have to deal with lameness caused by infections. Dr Hensie Lategan from Bredasdorp Animal Clinic explains that lameness can be caused by quite a number of things, most of which are treatable.
The highest incidence of lameness is seen in high-producing, intensively managed dairy cattle. Due to the significant impact of lameness on these animals’ milk production and reproduction, the problem needs to be addressed as soon as the breeder notices it in his or her herd.
According to Dr Lategan, lameness in cattle can be divided into two main categories, namely infectious and non-infectious lameness. A foot bath can be used to control and treat infectious lameness to some extent. Both infectious and non-infectious lameness can be prevented through regular hoof care and corrective management. Nutrition can also have an effect on the appearance and prevention of lameness.
Causes of lameness
Lameness is often attributed to a bump or something the animal has stepped on but, says Dr Lategan, other factors can also lead to lameness, and none of them should be ignored.
Various types of injuries can cause trauma and lead to lameness. Among these, hip dislocation or fractures are the most common causes. Wounds, especially puncture wounds on the claws, can also lead to lameness.
In terms of nutrition, it is important to ensure that the correct feeding patterns are followed as it can play a key role. An excess of carbohydrates in the feed, explains Dr Lategan, can lead to clinical or subclinical acidosis, which can culminate in laminitis. This is also one of the first indications of underlying acidosis, as all four legs are affected.
Infections are another common cause of lameness. This is typically seen in the more humid parts of the country where animals such as dairy cattle have to survive in wet conditions. Interdigital and white-line infections (commonly known as footrot) are often the result of prolonged wet conditions.
Mature animals can also suffer from septic arthritis, which is usually the result of trauma such as a puncture wound that has not been treated properly. Heavy dairy breeds kept in small areas with little room for movement often suffer from sole and toe ulcers.
Other factors – some of which are genetic and others that are due to a nervous condition or injury – do exist.
Treatment and prevention
Dr Lategan says lameness can be a sign of a number of diseases, conditions or even poor nutrition management, and therefore each case must be treated on its own merits. The most important thing, however, is to identify the problem as soon as possible and make the correct diagnosis. “The sooner treatment is started, the greater the chances of recovery,” he says.
There are some general guidelines that breeders can apply, but each case must still be handled on its own merits. In case of infection, and depending on the severity thereof, the areas between the claws can be disinfected. Systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain medication, as prescribed by the veterinarian, are also excellent treatment options. Good claw care, blocks applied to healthy claws and claw amputation can also be considered.
Nutrition and management
Healthy nutrition, and the correct management thereof, is an important and often overlooked aspect in the prevention of lameness. For example, the right nutrition can prevent laminitis. If there are cases of laminitis in the herd, the animals must be treated immediately for acidosis. This should be combined with anti-inflammatory agents, as prescribed by the veterinarian, given to the animals according to the directions.
Dr Lategan emphasises the importance of meticulous herd management and adds that a balanced diet, which supplements trace element and mineral deficiencies, is an essential measure to prevent lameness. Prevention is still the best way to combat lameness in cattle. “Regular hoof care is an important aspect of herd management. In this regard, a formalin and zinc sulphate foot bath makes a valuable contribution.
“Pens, footpaths to the parlour and areas around the troughs must be kept dry. Animals must also not be allowed to crowd in the waiting areas,” he says.
He also advises producers to remove animals with poor conformation or hoof disorders such as corkscrew claws from the herd. – Koos du Pisanie, Stockfarm
For more information, phone Dr Hensie Lategan on 028 424 1242.