What is Locomotion scoring?

How many lame cows do you have? I have a strong suspicion that most farmers don’t actually know. When we go to a farm to do hoof trimming, we often end up treating more cows than what had been booked. This has been the case throughout the 25 years I have been trimming in NZ. Our Australian colleagues are finding the same. A lot of the cows we trim are not considered lame by the farmer but are identified for preventative trimming. However, it still strikes me how often there are more lame cows than expected. Often farmers say they don’t have lame cows, yet when you see their herd walking over the track it is obvious that this is not the case. Maybe not so much that you can tell which foot the cows are favouring but, nevertheless, they are lame. So, what constitutes a lame cow? Cows are lame long before they limp, and even at this stage (known as the subclinical stage) they are costing you money. Research shows that a cow will lose 5% production in this subclinical stage. If you have a large percentage of the herd in that situation you may be losing more money than you realise. So how can you identify the cows that are subclinically lame? There are some good tools available to help you recognise the signs. Zinpro© has produced a helpful locomotion scoring chart which highlights five different stages of lameness and encourages you, the farmer, to observe how a cow stands and walks. In summary:

Locomotion Score 1 – a cow should stand and walk with a flat back.

Locomotion score 2 – The cow stands with a flat back and walks with an arched back (she has now moved in to the subclinical stage of lameness).

Locomotion score 3 – The cow stands and walks with an arched back, but you are not able to identify       which foot she is lame on.

Locomotion score 4 – You are now able to tell which foot the cow is lame on and she is now considered clinically lame.

Locomotion score 5 – When the cow becomes so lame that her lame foot is not weight-bearing anymore.

Locomotion Scores 2 and 3 cows don’t always become clinically lame. Most cows don’t stay clinically lame even if they never get trimmed or treated, and I think it is an important point to make that we, as trimmers, are not trying to just get cows to come right, because most cows will come right if you give them rest and don’t walk them too far. However, our aim is to have cows come right as quickly as possible and their recovery time is a good indicator of the effectiveness of the trimming being performed. We need cows to come right as quickly as possible because: 1. It is an animal welfare issue and 2. They are costing you money.  So, I challenge you to have a look at your cows as they walk to the cowshed today with a critical eye and see how many cows you have with a Locomotion Score of 2 or 3. Give us a call on 0800833643 and we will send you a free Locomotion Scoring Chart from Zinpro©, or you can download it from our website (www.veehof.co.nz) to help you with your assessment. If you get your score 3 cows trimmed and improve their locomotion, you will be making more money even if they would not have become clinically lame, as production levels will improve for these cows.


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