On any given day, lameness affects about one in three milking cows in the UK, and lameness in general is considered as one of the top 3 reasons for early replacement of cows. Lameness is therefore not only a serious direct animal welfare issue, causing severe pain and discomfort to the animal, but it also has additional costs impacting on the income of a farm. Indeed, lameness is associated with decreased milk production, potential early replacement of cows and thus inflated farm costs of approximately £250 million annually.
Interestingly however, of cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. A new scientific research project starting in December 2018 aims to learn why some dairy cows become lame, as well as developing preventive and genetic tools to control the serious and debilitating condition. The project, funded by the BBSRC, brings together scientists from the Scottish Rural College, Institute of Veterinary Science (University of Liverpool) and the Royal Veterinary College (Drs Androniki Psifidi, Dong Xia and Prof Dirk Werling) to identify the reasons over a three year period.
Understanding the reasons behind the cause of lameness will help the team develop targeted preventive practices and breeding programmes, contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.