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Using Foot Lesion Data to Manage Lameness

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
May 20, 2015

Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Using Foot Lesion Data to Manage Lameness
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (05/20/15) — Many dairy farms spend time dealing with lameness in their herds.  Lameness is a common, painful and costly disease, and a major animal welfare concern. Gerard Cramer, DVM with the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine says, “A holistic management approach is required to prevent and reduce the impact of lameness. This approach starts with a foot health program that combines the farm's foot lesion data with four success factors to create a system that minimizes lameness…This foot lesion data when combined with parity and stage of lactation directs which success factor is most important on your farm.”

Recording of foot lesion data starts with the person doing the hoof trimming. This professionally trained person should record lesions in a standardized manner, at minimum recording the cow's ID, date, lesion and treatment applied. These data should be combined with on-farm management software to allow cow and herd level management decisions to be made.  As I mentioned, Dr. Cramer has recommended 4 success factors to consider when using lesion data.  The first of those is early detection and treatment.  The primary reason to focus on detection and treatment of lameness is to improve the well-being of the cow.  Dr. Cramer writes, “Too often lameness is treated as a non-urgent disease and we take a 'wait and see' approach.”

The second success factor to consider is low infection pressure.  The two keys areas to focus on are hygiene and footbaths.  Wetness and manure are a part of a dairy cow’s life, but proper cleaning and keeping areas dry reduce exposure.  Keep in mind that footbaths are a preventative tool, not a treatment tool.  Maximize contact time by ensuring your footbath is long enough.

Another success factor Dr. Cramer mentions is a good quality horn and shape, this maximizes the hoof’s resistance to trauma.  Major areas to consider are proper hoof trimming and feeding management.  Dr. Cramer says, “Preventative hoof trimming attempts to remove the excessive growth and redistribute the forces that occur within a cow's foot to avoid excessive pressure on the sole ulcer location.”  For feeding management, rather than focusing on the paper ration and specific nutrient levels, the focus should be on factors that affect intake patterns such as usable bunk space, forage quality and consistency, timing of ration delivery and behavioral factors.

The last success factor is low forces on the feet.  The focus is to create a comfortable environment, including proper flooring and traction in traffic areas.  Any change made to the cow's environment to reduce standing time is going to result in less sole ulcers and white line disease as it removes weight bearing from the horn producing tissue.

Combining lesion data and success factors can help reduce your herds’ lameness problems.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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