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Lameness in housed cows

Lameness in housed cows

George Ramsbottom, Teagasc Dairy Specialist explains why cows often become lame around housing time. Their hooves soften in the wet underfoot autumn conditions. When they’re housed, they are vulnerable to two particular types of lameness. The two conditions are sole ulcers and mortellaro.

Sole ulcers

These typically occur in housed cows where conditions are less than ideal – for example where there is inadequate feeding space resulting in competition for space or where there is a shortage of cubicles and the cows are standing for longer than optimal. Prevention of this condition is centred on increasing cow comfort during the housed period.


This disease results in an infection at the back of the heel and is both painful and highly contagious, quickly spreading throughout the herd. Spread is accelerated in damp moist conditions such as where shed ventilation is poor and humidity increases and where slurry builds up underfoot. Control of the disease centres ensuring that underfoot conditions are as dry as possible through improvements in ventilation to reduce shed humidity and ensuring that passages are cleaned regularly. In addition, regular foot bathing has an important role to play in keeping this disease under control.


For those interested in hearing more on preventing lameness in dairy cows, we’re running a three part series on the Let’s Talk Dairy webinar. On Thursday 10th November, I spoke with hoof paring trainer Ned Dunphy of the Farm Relief Service, Waterford about the three most common causes of lameness in dairy cows. On Thursday 17th, I’ll interview Dr. Natasha Browne about her recent survey of lameness on Irish dairy farms. Finally on Thursday 24th November, Stuart Childs will talk to Paul Maher, a post graduate student at Moorepark, on his dairy cow roadway survey. The quality of farm roadways has a big impact on the incidence of lameness. Paul will describe his assessment of roadway quality on Irish dairy farms.

The Teagasc Dairy Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to dairy farmers every Monday here on Teagasc Daily.