Lameness in cows: an introduction to the Healthy Feet Programme
Find out how the Healthy Feet Programme (HFP) can help you to reduce lameness on your farm by identifying and applying the right solutions.
No one wants to see cows not walking properly and herd lameness can have effects on staff morale, as well as the image of dairy farming.
Lameness can be caused infection as well as by physical and management factors. An understanding of which types are present on your farm, along with knowing the most beneficial changes you can make, will help you to tackle lameness effectively and permanently.
The HFP is a stepwise approach. Trained programme deliverers (vets or foot trimers who have attended a specialist course) facilitate the whole process and act as one-to-one advisers – or mobility mentors.
What is a mobility mentor?
A mobility mentor has been trained specifically to deliver the HFP. Usually, they are vets with a special interest in lameness control.
A mobility mentor will work with you to introduce the right working practices and management to reduce lameness on your farm.
The four success factors
The programme is based around four key success factors:
- Low infection pressure.
- Good hoof shape, horn quality and digital cushion.
- Early detection and prompt, effective treatment of lame cows.
- Low forces on the feet (good cow comfort and good cow flow).
How does the Healthy Feet Programme work?
Working with your mentor, you use the HFP Risk Assessment Tool to work out the most productive changes needed to reduce lameness.
Every farm is different and often there are many people on a farm who will influence lameness levels – so everyone needs to be involved.
Your mentor has been trained to guide you and your team, so the changes you make will be effective. They will help you find ways to measure and monitor improvements, and you will be supported to ensure the changes work.
If you wish, you may become involved in benchmarking with other farms, so you can learn from the experience of others and share what works.
The programme provides you with the materials you need to:
- Recognise, treat and record lesions properly
- Mobility score effectively and ensure your staff can, too
- Understand footbathing and make sure it works for your herd
- Cost out herd lameness and calculate a cost benefit for changes considered
The programme builds on the widely respected work of the Healthy Feet Project, supported by the Tubney Charitable Trust, and is carried out at Bristol University Vet School.
It has been developed in consultation with vets in practice and foot trimmers, as well as local and international lameness experts.
Here is what Mark Humphry said about the HFP:
“The whole dairy team here at Manor Farm got involved and now we have a mobility contract on the dairy office wall with 15 action points, including who is responsible for each action, by when and a progress column. Some of the actions we were able to implement straightaway and some are more long-term. We are now all much more focused on lameness and we have already seen a 40% reduction in cows with mobility scores 2 and 3. We all helped draw up the plan so we feel we have ownership and a set of achievable targets.”
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