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Alleviation of lamenes sin dairy heifers: development of a lameness control plan - AW1013

The main objective of this proposal is to achieve and sustain a significant reduction in the incidence and severity of lameness in dairy cattle. From a systematic evaluation of expert opinion (The ‘Delphi‘ process) we shall develop a Lameness Control Plan that is based on clear generic principles of risk and outcome, but which can be tailored to address specific lameness problems and specific risks on individual farms. Priority will be given to the two most important categories of foot lameness, infectious digital dermatitis (DD) and Pododermatitis Aseptica Diffusa (PAD = sole and white line lesions). Clinical signs of PAD are rare until shortly before first calving, but present in almost 100% of heifers by 8 weeks after calving. Heifers which experience PAD severe enough to induce lameness in their first lactation are highly prone to relapse. The first priority for a Lameness Control Plan must therefore be to modify housing and management during the critical period prior to and shortly after first calving so as to break the sequence of events that compromises the integrity of the foot at this time. The project would proceed in the following sequence:-

1. Development of the Lameness Control Plan.
2. Categorisation of lameness and risk factors for lameness on 60 commercial farms and tailoring of the Lameness Control Plan to address these specific problems.
3. An intervention programme to impose the Lameness Control Plan on a case-control basis on farms, and monitor and analyse its effects.
4. Creation of an interactive decision-support system to implement best practice nationwide.

Lameness has been identified both by the Farm Animal Welfare Council and by farmers themselves as the most serious welfare problem for dairy cows. This complex problem has received intense study but there has, as yet, been no major, systematic attempt to address the problem in practice through imposition of a control strategy designed primarily to protect heifers from the (at present) almost inevitable foot damage that occurs around the time of first calving. This proposal is highly relevant to DEFRA policy because it is designed to impart best practice, first through a pilot study to establish best practice, then through the development of a decision-support tool which can be used to disseminate best practice as widely as possible.
01: To create a profile of all major categories of risks to the claws and limbs of the pre-calving heifer. The `Delphi` approach will be used to consolidate expert opinion as to their importance, monitoring procedures and theliely impact of intervention procedures.

02: Using the expert knowledge gathered in 01; to develop a structured approach to lameness prevention- a Descision Support Strategy based on HACCP principles (analogous to the mastitis `5-pont plan` but moer comprehensive and with greater flexibility)- to aplly durinfg the year pre-calving, to address the lameness risks identified in 01.

03: To investigate the association between specified risks including genetic factors and the incidence of lameness in heifers prior to and during first lactation on 60 individual dairy farms. Analysis of these relationships will be used to refine and develop the Decision Support Strategy.

04: To carry out a controlled intervention programme on 30 of 60 farms, randomly selected. Preventative measures specific to individual farms (as identified and developed through 02 and 03) will be imposed during th year preceding calving. The outcoome of intervention v. non-intervention will be assessed form measurements made during the 24 weeks following parturition on all 60 farms.

05: To analyse the results of the intervention study and, if necessary, further refine the Descision Support Strategy.

06: To produce a cost/benefir analysis based on the use of the final Descision Support Strategy.

07: To disseminate this approach to best practice in lameness control through scientific publication, direct contact with farmers and veterinary surgeons, and the preparation of an interactive, flexible Decision Support Tool, or Lameness Control Plan.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Alleviation of lameness in heifers_Development of a lameness control plan   (442k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2007

Cost: £492,732
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Bristol
Animal Welfare              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare