Adapted with permission from: Mendenhall, K. (ed.) 2009. The organic dairy handbook: a comprehensive guide for the transition and beyond. Northeast Organic Farming Asociation of New York, Inc., Cobleskill, NY. (Available online at: http://www.nofany.org/organic-farming/technical-assistance/organic-dairy, verified 18 July 2012).
Hoof health and lameness--big concerns for dairy producers--are directly related to management. The contributing factors are nutrition, walking surfaces, cow comfort (stalls), genetics, cleanliness, and biosecurity, most of which are under a farmer's direct control. On conventional farms, lameness has increased markedly over the last 20 years as intensive dairying has increased. Because organic cows are managed less intensively and production is lower, many studies have found a reduction in lameness as farms switch to grazing and organic production methods.
High starch diets and diets containing improperly processed grain can set cows up for acidosis and hoof disease. Fortunately, most organic diets limit grain intake and rely heavily on forage, so acidosis is reduced. Problems can occur, however, if slug feeding is practiced (offering grain for a short amount of time, e.g., in parlor). See "Managing Dairy Nutrition for the Organic Herd: Assessing the Feeding Program" for additional information on acidosis and nutritional impact on lameness. Trace minerals (copper, zinc) and vitamins (A and E, biotin, and beta carotene) are necessary for healthy hoof growth and proper function of the immune system.
Confinement on concrete will increase feet and leg problems, as will uncomfortable stalls if cows are reluctant to lie down. Since organic cows spend most of their time on pasture during the grazing season, lameness problems decrease for most dairies. Cleanliness of housing can have an impact on lameness on any dairy. Moisture from wet manure, urine, mud, and standing water in pastures harbors bacteria that cause infectious foot rot and soften the hoof, making invasion by these bacteria more likely to occur.
Causes of Lameness
As with many diseases, lameness is caused by many factors. Table 1. reviews the common causes of lameness (both infectious and noninfectious).
|Name and Cause||Location and Characteristics||Contributing Factors||Management and Treatment|
|Infectious Hoof Diseases|
Digital Dermatitis (strawberry wart, hairy heel wart)
| || || |
Interdigital Necrobacillosis (foot rot, foot foul)
| || || |
Interdigital DermatitisCause: bacterial
| || || |
|Noninfectious Hoof Diseases|
| || || |
Cause: laminitis or poor trimming
| || || |
| || || |
White Line Disease
Cause: laminitis, moisture
| || || |
Alternative Therapies for Lameness
The following therapies may not be scientifically evaluated or appropriate for all farms. Make sure you consult the References and Citations section at the end of this article for specific instructions.
- Foot rot: homeopathic pyrogen.
- Abscesses: homeopathic hepar sulph, silica.
- Garlic tincture or crushed bulbs orally.
- Epsom salt/tea tree oil footwraps.
Also in This Series
This article is part of a series discussing organic dairy herd health. For more information, see the following articles.
- Organic Dairy Herd Health: General Concepts
- Alternative and Complementary Treatment and Medicines
- Youngstock Management
- Effect of Housing and Cow Comfort on Health and Disease
- Reproductive Management from Breeding through Freshening
- Udder Health and Milk Quality
- External and Internal Pests and Parasites
- Managing Disease in the Organic Herd
References and Citations
- Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin [Online]. USDA National Agricultural Library. Available at: http://awic.nal.usda.gov/publications/animal-welfare-information-center-bulletin (verified 15 June 2012).
- de Bairacli Levy, J. 1991. The complete herbal handbook for farm and stable. Faber and Faber, London.
- Dettloff, P. 2004. Alternative treatments for ruminant animals. Acres U.S.A., Austin, TX
- Fraser, A. F. 1997. Farm Animal Behaviour and Welfare. CABI Publishing, New York, NY.
- Grandin, T. 2011. Outline of cow welfare critical control points for dairies [Online]. Grandin Livestock Handling Systems, Fort Collins, CO. Available at: http://www.grandin.com/cow.welfare.ccp.html (verified 15 June 2012).
- Karreman, H. 2006. Treating dairy cows naturally: Thoughts and strategies. Acres U.S.A., Austin, TX.
- Macleod, G. 2004. A veterinary materia medica and clinical repertory: With materia medica of the nosodes. Random House: UK.
- New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program Welfare/Cattle Care Module [Online]. New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program. Available at: http://www.nyschap.vet.cornell.edu/module/welfare/welfare.asp (Verified 15 June 2012).
- Sheaffer, C.Er. 2003. Homeopathy for the herd: A farmers guide to low-cost, non-toxic veterinary care for cattle. Acres U.S.A., Austin, TX.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2009. Grade "A" pasteurized milk ordinance. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Food and Drug Administration. (Available online at: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/MilkSafety/NationalConferenceonInterstateMilkShipmentsNCIMSModelDocuments/UCM209789.pdf) (verified 15 June 2012).
- United States Department of Agriculture. 2000. National organic program: Final rule. Codified at 7 C.F.R., part 205. (Available online at: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=f8b2967603d1a188e3b2b1ce9afbee3c&ty=HTML&h=L&n=7y220.127.116.11.32&r=PART) (verified 7 Feb 2013).
- Verkade, T. 2001. Homeopathic handbook for dairy farming. Homepathic Farm Support Ltd., Hamilton 3240, New Zealand.
- Whole Foods Market Animal Welfare [Online]. Whole Foods Market. Available at: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/meat/welfare.php (verified 15 June 2012).
- Wynn, S. and B. Fougere. 2007. Veterinary herbal medicine. Mosby-Elvesier, St. Louis, MO.