Several factors are associated with lameness in dairy cows, including genetics, the environment and cow health. Low body condition score (BCS) and previous lameness occurrence can increase the risk of future lameness. A United Kingdom study (Randall, et.al. 2017) evaluated how much lameness could be avoided either by reducing recurrence or improving BCS.
Two UK herds, 200 and 600 cows each, were used in the study. In the smaller herd, 21.5% of total risk periods contained a lameness event, 96% of which were repeat events and 19% were recorded with a body condition score of less than 2. For the second herd, 16.3% of risk periods contained a lameness event, with 72.6% as repeat events and 20% recorded with BCS less than or equal to 2. In the two herds a previous lameness event provided between 79% and 83% of the contribution to a reoccurring event. In addition, between 9% and 21% of reoccurring events could be attributed to a lameness event that happened more than 16 weeks prior to the event occurring.
With regard to BCS, between 4% and 11% of reoccurring lameness could be attributed to a BCS lower than 2, depending on the severity of lameness.
Researchers concluded repeated bouts of lameness made a large contribution to the total number of lameness events in the two herds. They surmised this could be because certain cows are initially susceptible and remain susceptible due to the increased risk associated with previous lameness events or due to repeated interactions with environmental factors.
Note: This story appears in the February 2018 magazine issue of Dairy Herd Management.