In the first few articles of this series, I explained how hard and non-yielding surfaces cause lameness in cows and why we see more mechanical lameness in dairy cows than in beef cows. Although standing on concrete is known to be the single most important risk factor for mechanical lameness, as it is for sole ulcers and white line lesions, the problem farmers face is that they cannot milk cows without concrete.
Time and Construction
There has to be a way to address this problem. The first important aspect is to reduce the amount of time that cows spend on concrete, and secondly, the construction of these concrete surfaces must be investigated.
Although standing on concrete is known to be the single most important risk factor for mechanical lameness, the problem farmers face is that they cannot milk cows without concrete.
Cows need to spend 12 to 14 hours a day off their feet in order to have the best possible blood supply to their feet and udders. Cows chew their cud while lying down. For the best milk production and sound feet, it is imperative for cows to have a soft and comfortable space in which to lie down.
In many cases, there is not much that can be done to reduce the distance that the cows need to walk on concrete surfaces, but a lot can be done to reduce the standing time on concrete. While the cow is standing, the pedal bone compresses the corium and results in poor blood supply in that area. One risk factor is the holding pen, where cows are kept before and after their time in the milking parlour. Smaller milking groups and a walkway from the parlour will reduce standing time significantly.
Rough concrete surfaces increase wear and are hard on the feet. Every dairy producer hates to see cows slip and fall, so, it is common to see rough surfaces, because it is believed that the rougher the surface, the better the traction the cow will have. But this is not true. The more contact surface the claws have and the better the grooves in the concrete, the better the cow’s footing.
Cows that are slipping lift their heels and try to press their toes into the ‘soil‘ in order to get a hold or grip. That is the function of the grooves. Good grooves will have a 90-degree edge and enough space for the toe to fit inside to create traction. For the best results, grooves need to be cut after the concrete has set.
What grooves should look like
Guest Writer & Consultant to DairySmid: Jaco de Bruin