Benefits and options of Claw blocks
Do you understand the benefits of the claw block? It is quite interesting what sort of responses farmers give to this question. Some think they are wonderful, some think they are too expensive, some struggle to make them stick on for any longer than a few steps and some make comments like “just make sure you don’t have any lame cows”. This last comment is very easy to say but most farmers I know haven’t got easy answers to their lameness issues, but I better not get sidetracked.
Claw blocks are lifesavers for many cows. Without them there would be a lot more cows going to the works – that is if the blocks are put on correctly and, unfortunately, I have seen many instances where they weren’t. Sometimes we come across cows where the block has been put on the sore claw and so it would seem that there is a lack of understanding as to how claw blocks work. The idea of a block is to glue it underneath the healthy claw so that the sore claw is relieved from carrying any weight enabling it to heal up much faster.
You should see an immediate improvement in the way the cow walks when the block is correctly applied because she is experiencing a lot less pain. A block should last for at least 3 to 4 weeks.
There are many different blocking systems available now, but my preference would be for the Demotec FuturaPad which uses a wooden block as opposed to the shoe design. The main reason for that is because they are very easy to work with, are nowhere near as weather dependant in the time they need to set (cold and hot days) and, most importantly, we can position the block much better on the claw. There are several other very good systems available such as the Hoof-Tite or Bovi-Bond blocking systems that also use a wooden block.
Often you find with the shoe type blocks that they sit too far forward and this makes the heel part of the block wear too fast or they even collapse in that part of the block. The cow has no choice but to walk on the heel of her foot which puts an enormous amount of strain on the tendon that is keeping the pedal bone down. This can cause such considerable stretch in some cases that there is a degree of lasting injury. The Demotec Easy Bloc system has minimized this effect with their shoe design making it a good choice if you prefer that style of block.
With a wooden block, you can always place the block correctly on the hoof. The back part of the block should be flush with the heel of the cow. It doesn’t matter at all if the toe is sticking over the front if the heel is flush. This way the block will wear much more evenly and that is much better for the ligaments. The block should also be flush with the inside of the claw and needs to be as flat as possible and not on an angle. Just remember that the block is there to support the weight of the cow. This can only be achieved if the block is placed nice and square and not too far forward.
The price of a block is often challenged and it does pay to shop around as there can be big variations in the prices of the same products between retailers, but even if blocks were sold for $100 each they still would be cheaper than a lame cow.