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Routine Herd Health Data as Cow-Based Risk Factors Associated with Lameness in Pasture-Based, Spring Calving Irish Dairy Cows

School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, D04W6F6 Dublin, Ireland
School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 204;
Received: 1 March 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 28 April 2019 / Published: 29 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Lameness in Livestock)
PDF [226 KB, uploaded 9 May 2019]

Simple Summary

Dairy cow lameness is considered one of the most important animal welfare and economic concerns for the dairy industry. Cow-based risk factors for lameness are not well described, especially in comparison to herd-level risk factors such as housing environment and roadway condition. This study investigates the use of routinely gathered herd health data as cow-based risk factors for lameness in dairy cows. A total of 1715 cows in 10 pasture-based Irish dairy herds were monitored for lameness during the spring and summer of 2013 and 2014 as part of the University College Dublin herd health programme. Herd health monitoring data analysed to identify potential risk factors for lameness consisted of milk production data, genetic merit information, calving details, peri-parturient disease records and body condition scores. This analysis showed a significant effect of increasing parity, lower body condition score at calving and excessive body condition loss after calving on the risk of cows being diagnosed as lame during the lactation. In conclusion, routinely gathered herd health monitoring data can be used to identify cows at increased risk of being lame and to implement lameness control strategies.


Herd-level risk factors related to the cow’s environment have been associated with lameness. Uncomfortable stall surface and inadequate depth of bedding as well as abrasive alley way surface are contributing factors to increased levels of lameness. Access to pasture has been found as having a beneficial effect on cows’ locomotion. However, dairy cattle managed under grazing conditions are exposed to a different set of risk factors for lameness, mainly associated with cow tracks. Cow-based risk factors for lameness are not as clearly defined as the herd level risk factors. The objective of the present study was to use routine herd health monitoring data to identify cow-based risk factors for lameness and utilise this information to indicate cows at risk of developing lameness in the first 150 days of lactation. Lameness data were gathered from 10 pasture-based dairy herds. A total of 1715 cows were monitored, of which 1675 cows were available for analysis. Associations between lameness status and potential cow-level risk factors were determined using multivariable logistic regression. Parity 3 and 4 + cows showed odd ratios (OR’s) for lameness of 3.92 and 8.60 respectively (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.46–6.24; 5.68–13.0). Maximum loss of Body condition score (BCS) after calving exhibits OR’s for lameness of 1.49 (95% CI 1.08–2.04) if cows lost 0.5 in BCS after calving and 2.26 (95% CI 1.30–3.95) for cows losing more than 0.5 BCS. Animals calving in BCS 3.25 and ≥ 3.5 had correlating OR’s of 0.54 (95% CI 0.34–0.87) and 0.33 (95% CI 0.16–0.65) for being lame compared to cows calving with BCS ≤ 2.75. Data gathered as part of herd health monitoring can be used in conjunction with lameness records to identify shortcomings in lameness management. Findings and recommendations on lameness management can be formulated from readily available information on cow-based risk factors for lameness. View Full-Text
Keywords: dairy cow; lameness; risk factors; pasture; seasonal dairy cow; lameness; risk factors; pasture; seasonal
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Somers, J.R.; Huxley, J.N.; Doherty, M.L.; O’Grady, L.E. Routine Herd Health Data as Cow-Based Risk Factors Associated with Lameness in Pasture-Based, Spring Calving Irish Dairy Cows. Animals 2019, 9, 204.

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