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Evaluating an intervention to reduce lameness in dairy cattle

Main, D.C.J., Leach, K.A., Barker, Z.E., Sedgwick, A.K., Maggs, C.M., Bell, N.J., Whay, H.R.
Journal of dairy science 2012 v.95 no.6 pp. 2946-2954
dairy cattle, dairy farming, dairy industry, farmers, farms, lameness, models, monitoring, social marketing, United Kingdom
Lameness in dairy cattle remains a significant welfare concern for the UK dairy industry. Farms were recruited into a 3-yr study evaluating novel intervention approaches designed to encourage farmers to implement husbandry changes targeted toward reducing lameness. All farms completing the study were visited at least annually and received either monitoring only (MO, n=72) or monitoring and additional support (MS, n=117) from the research team. The additional support included traditional technical advice on farm-specific solutions, facilitation techniques to encourage farmer participation, and application of social marketing principles to promote implementation of change. Lameness prevalence was lower in the MO (27.0±1.94 SEM) and MS (21.4±1.28) farms at the final visit compared with the same MO (38.9±2.06) and MS (33.3±1.76) farms on the initial visit. After accounting for initial lameness, intervention group status, and year of visit within a multilevel model, we observed an interaction between year and provision of support, with the reduction in lameness over time being greater in the MS group compared with the MO group. Farms in the MS group made a greater number of changes to their husbandry practices over the duration of the project (8.2±0.39) compared with those farms in the MO group (6.5±0.54). Because the lameness prevalence was lower in the MS group than the MO group at the start of the study, the contribution of the additional support was difficult to define. Lameness can be reduced on UK dairy farms although further work is needed to identify the optimum approaches.