Dairy Australia - Dairy information for Australian Dairy Farmers and the industry

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Symptoms and treatment for cows with unusual gait, stiff movements or tender feet.

Lameness or difficulty moving

Identifying and addressing lameness in your herd is an essential part of both animal management and farm business management. 

The prevention, early detection and treatment of lameness improves animal welfare by minimising suffering and distress in cows.

Act decisively, treat quickly and check regularly. Use the complete guide to preventing and managing lameness (PDF) to help you manage lameness on your farm.

It can be difficult to identify causes of lameness and make changes to reduce the number of cows becoming lame. Understanding the risk factors is critical. Multiple risk factors may contribute to a lameness problem.

The key risk factors influencing incidence of cow lameness within Australian dairy herds are:

  • Poor dairy shed entrance and/or exit design slowing cow flow
  • Stockmanship: human actions altering normal walking behaviour of herd
  • Rough services and long walking distances contributing to excessive wear or trauma to hooves
  • Herd management for example:
    • nutrition - feed and nutritional supplements
    • management in wet conditions - use of standoff areas

  • Identifying lameness

    Use our simple eight-step guide to identify lameness in your dairy herd.

    Identifying lameness
  • Treating lameness

    Learn how to prepare and treat the hoof for different causes of lameness.

    Treating lameness
  • Preventing lameness

    Identify and improve aspects of your farm that could lead to lameness.

    Preventing lameness

Lameness or difficulty moving in dairy cows usually  comes from an injury or diseases affecting the hoof or leg. But lameness or difficulty moving can also occur alongside specific illnesses that are unrelated to the hoof or leg. These can include:

  • Clinical mastitis (see, mastitis)
  • Clostridial infections (see, tetanus)
  • Septicaemia and associated conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Arthritis
  • Cellulitis and trauma leading to an infected wound

If you'd like to learn more about lameness in a practical environment, come along to a Healthy Hooves workshop in your region.

Download our lameness resources to keep or share with your on-farm staff

Would you prefer a hard copy? Order the complete set of lameness guides by completing this online form and they will be sent to you.