Lameness in Off-Paddock Facilities


2 min read

Lameness risks Adapting to hard surfaces Slippery surfaces Mattresses and cushioning Winter lameness checks

Standing on hard surfaces or constantly wet conditions can cause lameness in cows. When kept in off-paddock facilities, cows' hooves can wear and soften, increasing the risk of injury and infection. If your cows spend extra time on concrete, you should monitor them regularly for signs of lameness, overgrown hooves, or hock lesions. 

Cows in off paddock facilities can get lame by standing on hard surfaces and having their hoof in constant contact with wet effluent.

Lameness risks associated with off-paddock facilities

Standing on concrete increases the wear and tear on cows’ hooves. Wet effluent softens the hooves so they are less able to withstand concrete. If your cows have dirty lower legs, they might not be lying down for long enough, increasing the risk for lameness.

Lameness risks associated with off-paddock facilities

Video 3:07 min

Adapting to hard surfaces

If your herd is going into a free stall barn or will spend more time on concrete stand-off pads:

  • Look out for sole wear from the abrasive concrete.
  • It can take up to 12 weeks for cows’ hooves to adapt to the wear by increasing the hoof growth.
  • During this time cows may get very thin soles and physical lameness, until the hoof adapts.

Cows can also adapt 'too well' and get overgrown hooves:

  • Have your farm team do routine observations for lameness.
  • In the first three months in the facility - put in an extra check to monitor how the herd is adapting.
  • After three months, continue to look for overgrown hooves.
  • Consider preventative trimming.

Slippery surfaces

Cows can become lame by tripping and falling in an off-paddock facility, especially if the floors are slippery and cows are showing signs of heat. At certain times, the effluent left by the scraper can be sticky and more slippery, usually when temperatures are high and the diet is high in dry matter.

Mattresses and cushioning

If mattresses become abrasive or the curb does not have adequate cushioning, cows can develop hock lesions. Hock lesions can lead to infections of the joint and lameness.

  • Look for hook lesions during milking or at routine dry cow inspections.
  • Ensure correct treatment is given.
  • If widespread in the herd, consider seeking expert advice on how the cushioning or surface can be improved.

Winter lameness checks

If cows are on concrete during winter only, they may have to go through an adaptation phase each year so winter lameness checks are essential. This can be difficult to do as cows usually stay inside, but any access to grazing is an excellent time to monitor the herd. Cows showing the first signs of lameness such as short steps or arched backs should be recorded and have their feet picked up and checked.

Additional Resources

Last updated: Sep 2023

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