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Objectives of Study: Lameness forms a major problem on dairy farms in Germany causing substantial economical losses and impairment of animal well-being. In the present study the effects of the implementation of functional claw trimming were examined on four dairy farms by long-term observations including monitoring of distinct cow signals in two-week intervals within a period of one year.
Materials and Methods: Four dairy farms, keeping between 60 and 120 dairy cows and sharing common characteristics with respect to management, housing conditions and mean annual milk yield, were included in this study. The housing conditions were evaluated by a standard protocol, and claw disorders were documented at functional claw trimming performed three times per year. In addition, distinct cow signals as lameness, body condition, stall standing index, rumination index, rumen filling and milk production data were documented in intervals.
Results: None of the farms achieved the recommended number of points with respect to housing conditions (109±137 points/178 points possible). The farms were deficient in walking space, cubicle comfort and floor condition. Following functional claw trimming, the severity of lameness decreased significantly. The prevalence of infectious and non-infectious claw diseases, however, did not change.
Conclusions: On all farms similar parameters of cow comfort were shown to be deficient. The latter deficiencies have been reported to affect claw health before. Functional claw trimming is a useful tool to improve lameness in herds, but seems to have hardly any effect on claw disease prevalence. On basis of these results we assume that only a change in housing conditions, especially in cubicle comfort, will have a sustainable effect on claw health.