Lame cows are no fun. Some may even say they're lame. Calling the Vet or the Hoof Trimmer always means a bill in the mail. More money spent. We all want to avoid that as much as possible. But what if I told you that treating lame cows was the least of your lame cow costs?
When chatting with producers, most attribute the highest lameness costs to treatment and loss of production. But, when data gathered on lameness was analyzed, researchers came up with some pretty surprising findings.
According to the data analysis, costs are attributed to:
- Treating lame cows – 10%
- Reduced Milk Production 25%
- Culling because of lameness 25%
- Infertility 40%
Two huge contributors to costs included increased cull rates, a 2.5% increase in the risk of culling, and reduced milk yield, ranging from 595lbs – 1,874lbs per lactation.
It's easy to understand how lameness can cause a drop in milk production. Pain and discomfort can quickly cause a change in feeding patterns, including an impaired ability to compete for space at the feed bunk or water trough and a reduced desire to stand for long periods, preventing optimal food intake—all having a significant impact on production.
What's more shocking is that Infertility is at 40%. It is the single biggest source of economic loss associated with lameness in dairy cattle. Let's look at where that 40% comes from.
Research shows that lame cows are:
- 9 times more likely to need an increased number of services compared to the herd average.
- 3.5 times more likely to have an increased risk of delayed cyclicity.
Because of these factors, the calving to conception interval can increase by up to 50 days, all having a very significant impact on fertility.
But Why Should Fertility Be Affected By Lameness?
There are several reasons:
- Reduced feed intake, resulting in negative energy balance. The loss of weight and condition can start even before lameness is observed.
- Behaviour – it may be more challenging to identify the signs of oestrus in lame cows, and these signs may be less obvious or apparent for shorter periods.
- Stress can harm ovarian function and follicular development, with a potential delay in cycling or ovulation timing.
- Inflammation can be associated with an increase in the service to conception interval. This may be caused by increased production of prostaglandin – a chemical messenger that is important in regulating the cow's oestrus cycle. Chronic inflammatory changes in the foot's tissues can take some time to treat so that these effects can be longer-lasting.
All these factors combine, meaning the effects of lameness on fertility can be pretty high.
Is there something you could be doing to prevent fall lameness in your herd?
Heat and temperature stress are often the culprit behind fall lameness. When cows are hot, they spend hours standing and panting, trying to cool themselves.
According to Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine
"In many herds in North America laminitis has a pronounced seasonal occurrence. Late summer through early fall is the peak of cases of white line abscess and sole ulcers. I believe that there are 2 primary causes that both are environmental in nature.
First, cows experiencing heat stress will redistribute their meals to eat predominately in the morning. This slug feeding increases the incidence of ruminal acidosis.
Second, and of unknown importance relative to the increase in low rumen pH, is the increase in standing time. Cows stand huddled around waterers. They stand in the stalls, often concentrated where fans move the most air.
Sometimes, apparently, when stable flies are bothersome, they stand in tight groups at one end of a pen. To avoid fly bites the goal of a cow is to be in the center of a group where the heat stress is likely maximal. Maybe they stand in the stalls because they perceive themselves to be cooler standing than lying down. For whatever constellation of reasons, the slug feeding and excess standing lead to large increases in lame cows. Summer ventilation and strategies to cool cows have the possibility to significantly reduce this seasonal lameness problem."
A complete cooling system by Core Cool manipulates the environment around the cow, cooling with a combination of very high airspeed and evaporative cooling, all controlled by the temperature and humidity in the barn. The focused, spiralling airflow is cooling the cows by helping her shed body and rumination heat to the environment. A minimum airspeed of 5mph in every stall ensures that maximum heat loss from airspeed can occur.
When airspeed alone isn't sufficient to provide cooling, the ultra-fine mist acts as an imitation sweat, landing on her coat and evaporating from a combination of airspeed and body heat. This evaporation creates a chilling effect that cools the blood flowing just below the surface of her skin. This cooled blood is pumped towards her core. Maintaining her core body temperature within her thermal comfort zone and keeping her consistently cool.
High airspeed is critical for cooling in high humidity. The system takes fresh, dry air in from outside, moves it quickly above the stalls or feed bunk, gathering moisture, and moves it quickly out of the barn.
Keeping cows comfortable and cool regardless of the ambient temperature and humidity in the barn. Core Cool effectively takes temperature out of the equation and makes every day feel comfortable and cool. This will lead to a decrease in fall lameness and better herd health, which will significantly impact cow performance and longevity.
Call 1-844-GET-KUHL to speak with a Cow Cooling Specialist today.
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