New Treatment Regime for Lame Cows – Pain Relief

lame cow

For many of us when treating lame cows, the standard treatment is to do a corrective trim of the problem area and if it is a moderate or severe lameness then apply a hoof block to the other claw. This has been the standard treatment for many years, however only a small percentage of farmers and vets consider using a pain relief/anti-inflammatory on top of this eg. Metacam, Key, or Rimadyl. When we actually stop to think about this, it is quite interesting why pain relief is not commonly used. Lameness is described as being one of the most painful conditions for a dairy cow. This is easily seen with a lame cow limping down the track, instantaneously dropping their milk production, rapidly losing condition and having very poor fertility. The aim should be to return these cows back to normality as soon as possible so they can become productive again, and to minimise the welfare concerns of that cow.

A recent study shows the effectiveness of different treatments for lame cows. This study showed a drastic improvement of cure rates when adding a pain relief on top of the standard treatments. Newly lame cows were given 1 of 4 different treatment regimes, they were then assessed to identify their cure* rates 35 days post the initial treatment.

The following cure rates were observed:

Corrective trim only – 25%

Corrective trim + hoof block – 36%

Corrective trim + 3 days of pain relief – 29%

Corrective trim + hoof block + 3 days of pain relief – 56%

This study shows that by a large margin the most successful treatment is adding in a hoof block and 3 days of pain relief on top of corrective trimming. When comparing this treatment regime to corrective trimming alone, it more than doubles the cure rate**. When the treatment period shortens the cow will improve their productivity, condition and fertility faster, hence in the long run will be more profitable. This is particularly important with lame cows early on in the season or during mating.

Next time when treating lame cows consider using some pain relief to get better and faster cure rates, this is definitely going to become the normal treatment regime over time. Have a yarn to your KeyVet about which type of pain relief is best for your farm systems.

*cure = a DairyNZ locomotion score of 0 after 35 days since treated

** The difference in cure rates between treatment regime 1 and 4 was statistically significant

Evaluation of treatments for claw horn lesions in dairy cows in a randomized controlled trial (H. J Thomas et al). Journal of Dairy Science 2015

- Dan Cragg


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