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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Foot and leg problems are a major concern for dairymen

Dairy Pipeline: June 2005

Tina Horn
Extension Area Dairy Agent,
Augusta County
(540) 245-5750 email:

Laminitis leads to poor performance and substantial economic losses. The average cost per case of lameness is $346 which includes treatment costs, reduction in milk yield, lower reproductive performance, increased involuntary cull rates, discarded milk, and the additional labor cost to manage those cows. Nutrition and feeding, housing and environment, other health issues, genetics, and management can all predispose a cow to feet and leg problems. With 90% of all foot and leg problems occurring in the foot, regular hoof trimming is a key factor in the reduction of lameness. Hooves should be evaluated and trimmed to improve comfort and performance. Proper nutrition is also a key. Most laminitis occurs in the first 100 days of lactation. Sore feet can reduce dry matter intake which will subsequently reduce milk production and can lead to other disorders such as ketosis, displaced abomasums, and other metabolic disorders. Rations should be balanced to maintain adequate NDF, ADF, and effective fiber levels. The inclusion of dry hay, an increased length of cut, avoiding slug feeding, and the use of buffers will help reduce the effects of high carbohydrate rations. Pay close attention to dry matter levels in forages and modify rations accordingly. Providing adequate bunk space (at least two feet per cow), a comfortable environment, and a minimal amount of time standing in the holding pen will also reduce the risks of laminitis.

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