Cow looking over wall

Relevant Products

Lameness in dairy cows is a major cause of financial loss on dairy farms.  The relationship between nutrition and the development of major hoof lesions is still far from clear.  The cause of solar ulcer and white line disease is multifactorial involving husbandry, housing, genetics, infections and nutrition.  It is likely that nutrition has only a small part to play in most lameness problems on farm.

High concentrate diets (high energy diets)

Some studies have shown a relationship between high concentrate diets; and solar ulcers and Digital Dermatitis (DD).  Research has shown that there were greater odds of DD when cows were fed a high concentrate diet than when fed a low concentrate diet. Where the length of time after calving to maximum dietary concentrate amount was less than 2 weeks there were increased odds of DD compared to where maximum levels were reached at between 2-3 weeks post calving.

Excessive intake of energy, especially in the form of starch, has been associated with increased lameness particularly laminitis, solar ulcer and white line disease.  Excessive starch in the diet is thought to modify the pattern of fermentation in the rumen which leads to an increase in toxins in the blood.  Mouldy feed may also trigger these toxins and result in lameness. In fact, an increased prevalence of lameness has been associated with high levels of aflatoxin in the milk.

Biotin supplementation

Variable results have been seen supplementing cows with biotin.  Differing forage to concentrate ratios can confound biotin supplementation.  In herds where the rumen environment is healthy, biotin supplementation shouldn’t be necessary as the cows will make biotin in their guts, but where there are levels of acidosis biotin supplementation may help lameness problems.

Dietary protein

Studies have shown that in high producing Holsteins, there was no association between the prevalence of lameness and crude protein.  However, studies have suggested that high levels of (and sudden increases in), dietary protein are associated with outbreaks of some forms of lameness such as digital dermatitis (DD) in cattle.  In herds where by-products (e.g. from the food industry, and potentially protein-rich) were fed to cows there were increased odds of DD compared with herds where by-products were not fed.

Diet Dry Matter (DM)

One study fed dairy heifers a low DM fermented diet based on silage or a high DM unfermented diet based on straw.  Sole lesions were worst in the low DM group.  Another study showed that dairy heifers fed hay or silage had worse solar haemorrhages and ulceration on silage. It may be due to them walking on wetter dung due to the decreased DM in the diet, rather than any diet effects per se.  Benefits are likely to be seen where cows spend less time standing on wet slurry.

Amino acids / Minerals

Studies have shown that feeding metal specific amino acid complexes led to a decrease in sole haemorrhages and sole ulcers.  Animals in the amino acid complexed mineral group had reduced incidence of sole ulceration.  In a further study, regular mineral supplementation (once/day) was protective against sole bruising.  However, in a study using first and second lactation animals, there were no effects of zinc methionate for various lameness measures.  Also, Holstein heifers supplied above recommendations with 115% methionine (without a metal complex group) showed no effects on the incidence of white line haemorrhages.

Calves that had been supplemented with 0.25 mg/kg BW sodium selenite per day for 45-60 days showed signs of swelling of the coronet, enlarged and cracking hooves and intradigital lesions.

Smaller proportions of lame animals are associated with supplementing vitamins and minerals to lactating cows, but animals fed a vitamin blend (3g/cow/day) also showed an improved locomotion score.  When animals’ diets had been supplemented with complex trace minerals in the previous year there was evidence of a reduced percentage of animals with DD.  There were no significant differences between cows supplemented with minerals in sulphate form and a proportion as complex trace minerals on the occurrence of DD.  Furthermore, animals fed a high phosphorus diet had lower locomotion scores during their third lactation than cows fed the low phosphorus diet.  Also, cows that were copper deficient, that were subsequently supplemented with copper sulphate had lower levels of lameness.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email