Hoof care for cows: Spot - Lift - Look

Prompt action to spot lameness in cattle and treat is key to success. Use this three-step method to help you to identify any cows that need attention.

1. Spot

It is important to spot cows that have recently become lame. If these cows are dealt with immediately, treatment can be a relatively simple and rewarding job. Chronically lame cows (those who have had a problem for a long time) can be much more difficult to treat effectively and disease is more likely to recur. Regular mobility scoring is the best way to spot newly lame cows.

Find out how to mobility score cattle

2. Lift

To find out the cause of lameness and treat it effectively, you need to lift the foot. This should be easy, safe and not unpleasant for you or the cow. It should be possible for one person to get one cow in the crush in 1 minute.

Read our handy tips for lifting a foot

3. Look

Sometimes the cause of lameness is easy to spot, but in other cases, greater skill is needed. Proper training in practical cattle hoof care will build confidence in correctly finding and dealing with lesions. Using a pair of hoof-testing pliers to apply pressure to different parts of the foot is more effective than digging at black marks.

How to identify lesions

Don't delay – treat today

Early identification and prompt, effective treatment of claw horn lesions is key to their successful management.

If animals are treated early, the likelihood of more severe lesions is reduced. Apply a block to the sound claw and treat with an anti-inflammatory agent to maximise recovery. Do not be tempted to over-trim. 

Find out more about blocking a foot

Cows with claw horn lesions should be treated as though they have lesions on both hindlegs, even if only one leg is identified as lame. A corrective trim (plus additional treatment as required) of the non-lame leg should be carried out at the time of examination.

Recent research has shown that any delay in the time to treatment of claw horn lesions is likely to reduce the rate of recovery, regardless of the treatment administered.

Useful links

Lameness in dairy cows

Lesions of the feet

How to block a foot

If you would like to order a hard copy of the Mobility score sheet or Mobility score pad, please contact publications@ahdb.org.uk or call 0247 799 0069.