Dairy producers now have access to a software program that lets them determine how to reduce lameness in their herd based on an analysis of environmental factors on the farm.
“Lameness is so complicated because many factors are involved in determining whether or not a cow gets lame and whether or not she stays lame,” said Dr. Nigel Cook, head of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine’s Food Animal Production Medicine section. “To communicate where a farm is failing is really difficult. We really needed a step-wise analytical tool.”
Working with experts from Zinpro, the company that sponsored production of this analytical tool, Dr. Cook was able to apply his knowledge to what is now called the “First Step” software tool.
Based on years of research, the First Step software provides a methodical way to capture data and store information. Farmers enter data on 20 different areas that can affect cow lameness, including bedding, walking surfaces, hoof trimming, hygiene, biosecurity, freestall ventilation, and heat abatement strategies.
Once the assessors have been identified and entered, the program goes to work. It compares the farm’s data with industry standards. Through a set of automated reports, this information can be used to home in on an individual farm’s problems.
“The program helps the consultant determine the most significant areas to focus on,” Dr. Cook said. “It’s a trouble-shooting tool. It identifies why that farm in particular is having a problem.”
In the past, consultants assessed hoof-trimming, stall comfort or foot-bathing in isolation, but there was a risk of missing other factors that can contribute to lameness.
“Nobody’s put it all together before,” Dr. Cook said.
After five years in development, the First Step software program will be used by Zinpro support staff and its network of consultants world-wide to train veterinarians, hoof-trimmers and nutritionists.