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6 Jul 2021

Cow comfort and lameness – part 1

Cow lameness becomes a vicious spiral if cow comfort is poor

Cows that have acquired a hoof disease or other lameness problem have a higher risk of having recurring health problems if they are not given special consideration.

Chronic injuries and gradual deterioration follow if cow comfort is too poor for the sick cows. This is due to both barn design (condition of stalls, corridors, etc.) as well as inappropriate management.

Lameness, not least in the form of hoof disorders, is one of the most significant disease problems in modern cattle farming.

Losses in connection with hoof problems include:

  • direct expenses
  • costs due to other related diseases (including metabolic and reproductive disorders)
  • reduced production
  • fertility problems
  • mortality and involuntary culling


Foot and leg problems are the most significant factor in the development of "loser cows" (cows with generally lower health and production status).


Factors related to the development of horn-related hoof disorders are primarily:

  • Calving- and hormonal-related weakening of structures between hoof and hoof capsule
  • Feeding deficiencies (biotin, zinc methionine) or disorders (rumen acidosis)
  • Load-related changes in the hoof (overgrown outer hooves on hind legs, thin wear of the sole
  • Incorrect hoof care (imbalance, unevenness, excessive pruning).


Factors related to the development of infectious hoof disorders are primarily:

  • Purchase of animals (possibly healthy carriers) is the main reason for the introduction of infectious hoof diseases in a herd.
  • The spread and maintenance of the infection at herd level depends to a large extent on the environment in the barn.


Under conditions where the cows have an increased risk of developing hoof disorders, the degree of cow comfort will often have a great impact on the course of the disease.

Below you could see some of the common hoof disorders:


Horn-related disorders

Infectious hoof disorders

Other hoof disorders

· sole ulcer

· sole hemorrhage

· white line separation

· double sole


· digital dermatitis

· interdigital dermatitis

· heel horn erosion

· interdigital phlegmon


· interdigital hyperplasia

· joint injuries and infections




Source: SEGES, Denmark

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