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Prevalence of lameness and associated risk factors on dairy farms in the Maritime Provinces of Canada

Jewell, M.T., Cameron, M., Spears, J., McKenna, S.L., Cockram, M.S., Sanchez, J., Keefe, G.P.
Journal of dairy science 2019 v.102 no.4 pp. 3392-3405
behavior change, body condition, bones, dairy cows, dairy farming, free stalls, gait, heifers, herds, industry, lactating females, lactation, lameness, locomotion, milk production, milking, regression analysis, risk factors, tie stalls, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island
Lameness in dairy cattle is a major issue for the industry due to the effects on the welfare of the animal, the economic impact, and consumer perception. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of lameness and explore potential risk factors in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Cows were scored for lameness and potential risk factors and were assessed in 46 freestall herds and 33 tiestall herds in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. In freestall herds, lameness was assessed using the most common method, locomotion scoring. A cow with a gait score of ≥3 out of 5 was considered to be lame. In tiestall herds, lameness was assessed using an alternative method known as stall lameness scoring. This assessment consisted of observation of the cow for 4 behavioral changes: standing on the edge of the stall, shifting weight, resting a limb, and uneven weight bearing when moved side to side. A cow displaying 2 or more of these behaviors was considered to be lame. At the time of the assessment, other animal-, environmental-, and management-based measurements were collected. These measurements were used in multivariable logistic regression analysis to determine risk factors that were associated with lameness for both freestalls and tiestalls independently. The prevalence of lameness was 21% for freestall-housed cattle and 15% for tiestall-housed cattle. Of the 1,488 tiestall-housed cows that were assessed, 68% showed no behavioral changes, whereas 15, 15, 2, and <1% showed 1, 2, 3, or 4 changes, respectively. In freestalls, higher odds of lameness were seen when cows spent ≥3 h/d in the holding area for milking compared with those that spent <3 h/d. In tiestall herds, higher odds of lameness were seen when bedding material was wet compared with when it was dry. For both lactating cow facility types, housing the dry cows and heifers on a deep bedded pack compared with tiestalls or freestalls was associated with a decreased odds of lameness. There were also many cow-level variables associated with lameness, including parity, daily milk production, stage of production, body condition, and width at the tuber coxae (hook bones). If producers become aware of the risk factors associated with lameness, they can make informed decisions on where to implement changes to help reduce the level of lameness in their herd.