We have been shining the spotlight on lameness over the past few months, with our fab foot trimmer Chris and the creation of our LLM Feet First Service making a splash on farms and in previous newsletters (articles can be found on the LLM Website too!). However, these have strongly focused on dairy cattle, so we thought we’d share the importance of keeping on top of lameness in our beef cattle too.
Recent figures, produced through vet Jay Tunstall’s PhD looking into the levels of lameness in the UK beef herd, show the mean incidence of lameness for finishers is at 8.3%, rising to 14.2% in sucklers. These figures are lower than the mean lameness for dairy cattle which is usually placed around the 30% mark. However, that doesn’t mean lameness in beef animals isn’t important for both welfare and economic reasons. It also becomes more difficult to deal with a beef animal when lame, as lame animals cannot be transported to markets or the abattoir; both key movements in the beef industry.
The figure that should be of note though, is that on average, cattle who have ever been lame, will have a daily live weight gain (DLWG) REDUCTION of 240g a day. This means a longer time to finish, increased costs associated with doing so and a less efficient system. It also puts sucklers in a poorer position to get back in calf and rear a calf if she herself is lame and not keeping up with the herd.
Causes of lameness in beef cattle include infectious causes (e.g. digital dermatitis or foul), non-infectious lesions (e.g. white line disease or sole ulcers), injuries and foreign bodies such as stones. The causes you see most on your farm will vary depending on many factors including stocking density, shed design and slurry management. Outdoor factors such as boggy fields and poaching around gateways or feed areas will also play a role.