Top scores for mobility improvements

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Regularly mobility scoring helped Carmarthenshire dairy farmers Robin and Helen Thomas reduce their lameness cases by 29% and improve cow welfare.

Robin and Helen Thomas manage their 510-cow flying herd at Dolau Farm, near Llandeilo, along with their three children, Rhys, Rhydian, and Mari. They also run another farm, Godor, under the same business.

The farm enrolled onto the HerdAdvance project in 2020 and following a meeting with their AHDB Animal Health Knowledge Exchange Manager, Anna Bowen, and the farm vet Sotirios Karvountzis, the team decided to focus on lameness management. Anna visited the farm in September 2020 to mobility score all the cows. The prevalence of lameness at Dolau was found to be higher than that at Godor, and the number of cases of cows scored 2 (lame) or 3 (very lame) were greater than the team wanted.

The team were already proactively engaged with foot trimming and regularly checked cows’ feet. However, following recent improvements to the collecting yard and parlour at Dolau, the team were concerned the deep grooves may be too harsh on the cow’s feet. The higher lameness cases at Dolau indicated this was likely an issue.

As a result of these findings, the collecting yard surface was smoothed so that the grooves were shallower and had less impact on the feet.

Anna returned to the farm in late October and mobility scored all cows again. The number of cows scored 2 and 3 had reduced significantly by 29%. For a 200-cow herd, a reduction of 29% would equate to a cost saving of £13,651 per year based on average farms seeing 30% prevalence of lameness and cases costing £2.20 per day.

Further improvements are expected as the cows spend more time on the new surface. The team also plan to present score 2 cows to the footrimmer along with routine trims and problem cows. As lame cows will be identified earlier, the problems should be less severe and the cows will recover sooner.

Anna said: “Regular mobility scoring is essential for early identification and treatment of lame cows, and to monitor changes in lameness prevalence over time. It allows farmers to work out if interventions have improved lameness, and to decide which management options make a difference. It is a great motivator for farmers to consistently improve.”

Find a wealth of information and resources on how to identify and manage lameness

Dolau is one of 500 farms selected by AHDB to take part in its HerdAdvance project, which aims to help Welsh dairy farmers lift profitability and performance by focusing on improved herd health management and disease control.

Find out more about HerdAdvance

HerdAdvance is part of the five-year Dairy Improvement Programme, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union.