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Associations between housing and management practices and the prevalence of lameness, hock lesions, and thin cows on US dairy operations
- Adams, A.E., Lombard, J.E., Fossler, C.P., Román-Muñiz, I.N., Kopral, C.A.
- Journal of dairy science 2017 v.100 no.3 pp. 2119-2136
- National Animal Health Monitoring System, body condition, composted manure, cows, experimental design, farms, free stalls, hay, heat, hock, lameness, lesions (animal), locomotion, models, pastures, rubber, sand, screening, sprinklers, straw, United States
- The objective of this study was to determine the association among different housing and management practices on the prevalence of lameness, hock lesions, and thin cows on US dairy operations. This study was conducted as part of the National Animal Health Monitoring System's Dairy 2014 study, which included dairy operations in 17 states. Size categories were assigned as follows: small (30–99 cows), medium (100–499 cows), and large (≥500 cows). Trained assessors visited 191 dairy operations from March through July 2014 and recorded locomotion and hock scores (on a 3-point scale), and the number of thin cows (body condition score ≤2.25) from a total of 22,622 cows (average 118 cows per farm). The majority of cows (90.4%) were considered to be sound (locomotion score = 1), 6.9% were mild/moderately lame (locomotion score = 2), and 2.7% were severely lame (locomotion score = 3). Similarly, most cows (87.3%) had no hock lesions (hock score = 1), 10.1% had mild lesions (hock score = 2), and 2.6% had severe hock lesions (hock score = 3). A low percentage of cows (4.2%) were thin. Univariate comparisons were performed using PROC LOGLINK, which accounts for study design and weighting. Variables meeting the univariate screening criterion of P < 0.20 were eligible for entry into multivariable models. Statistical significance in the multivariable models was declared at P < 0.05. Large operations had a lower within-herd prevalence of cows with locomotion score ≥2 and locomotion score = 3 compared with small or medium-sized operations. Operations on which cows were kept primarily on pasture had a lower percentage of locomotion score = 3 than those housed in freestall or open/dry lot operations. The use of sand bedding was associated with a lower within-herd prevalence of locomotion score ≥2 than straw/hay or dry/composted manure as the primary bedding material. Sand bedding was also associated with a lower within-herd prevalence of locomotion score = 3 than other bedding types except for rubber mats or mattresses. Operations that housed cows in an open/dry lot had a lower percentage of hock score ≥2 and hock score = 3 than other housing types. Providing sprinklers for heat abatement and having a nutritionist balance rations for cows was associated with a lower percentage of thin cows. Results from this study highlight management practices that may reduce the prevalence of lameness, hock lesions, and thin cows on dairy operations in the United States.