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An overview of claw disorders at slaughter in finishing beef cattle reared in intensive indoor systems through a cross-sectional study

Magrin, Luisa, Brscic, Marta, Armato, Leonardo, Contiero, Barbara, Cozzi, Giulio, Gottardo, Flaviana
Preventive veterinary medicine 2018 v.161 pp. 83-89
abscess, beef cattle, claws, cross-sectional studies, farms, feet, finishing, foot diseases, infectious diseases, lameness, locomotion, planning, production technology, rearing, slaughter, slaughterhouses, veterinarians, Italy
This cross-sectional study aimed to assess in post-mortem the prevalence of specific claw disorders and their location on the sole in hind feet of finishing beef cattle reared indoors under intensive production systems. Evaluation was made on animals that were introduced in the ordinary slaughterhouse planning, presumably with no signs of impaired locomotion or severe lameness. A total of 4292 hind feet (right and left) belonging to 153 batches were collected (average feet/batch 28.1 ± 5.62 (SD)) in 3 abattoirs in Northern Italy at 3 time points (April-June and September-October 2016; February–March 2017). One veterinarian performed the claw trimming first and then scored the presence of specific claw disorders and their position on the sole considering 7 zones (in the digital and interdigital areas). All claw disorders in a specific zone were recorded as binary (presence/absence). Infectious (ILS), non-infectious (NILS), and global (GLS) scores were calculated considering both the type of claw disorder detected and the number of zones affected. Non-infectious disorders were the most common diagnoses among batches, mainly on the lateral claws and in the heel-sole junction area. In particular, white line abscesses and ulcers (sole and toe ulcers) were also found as two of the most debilitating and painful lesions with a non-negligible frequency. Infectious diseases, when occurring in a batch, spread to almost all feet. As expected, GLS distribution on the total feet inspected showed a non-harmful condition, given that the worst scores from 3 to 13 were assigned to a restricted sample of feet (15%) and were far from the maximum potential value of 50. However, the GLS of all batches monitored revealed 10 critical batches having no healthy feet or more than 50% of feet graded with the worst scores.Since right and left feet of the same animal showed similar clinical diagnoses, a more efficient claw health evaluation system should consider only one foot.Although all cattle inspected were supposed to have no evident locomotory problems before slaughter, the detection of several foot disorders and the considerable distribution in some batches might suggest poor conditions on farms affecting finishing beef cattle health, behaviour, and welfare. It is therefore advisable that possible predisposing factors of specific claw disorders on the farms of origin be investigated more deeply.