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A lame problem

Sick of dealing with lame cows, North Canterbury farmer Sam Spencer-Bower decided to take a proactive approach with some preventative hoof trimming. 

But he was concerned they weren’t picking up enough cows and started working with his veterinarian to get some locomotion scoring performed on his farms.

“We wanted to pick up the cows that were slightly lame and do something about it before they got too bad,” Spencer-Bower says.

“We didn’t have a significant lameness problem, but it was enough to be costly and the guys don’t like doing lame cows so the less we had the better.”

A team approach

He looks after nearly 3000 cows across three dairy farms as a general manager in Rangiora and with around 15 staff he has found the locomotion score data a great tool to support the team.

“It gets everyone thinking about it, and whether they’re doing anything that could be causing it,” Spencer-Bower says.

He uses the information to determine what could be happening, whether there is an infrastructure problem or if the staff need some further training and support.

“You’ve got valid evidence to show staff things aren’t going as well as they might think, and you can justify potential upgrades or adjusting things in the yard like how the backing gate works for example.”

Accurate information

“If you rely on records of how many cows you’ve treated, you don’t have the information around the severity and different people pull out different levels of lameness to treat, so it’s worthwhile for us having the independent scorer come out and score the farms.”

“Once you’ve got some numbers you know percentages of what is happening and you can start calculating what that’s costing you, that’s the real benefit to me.”

There is no disruption when the locomotion score is happening. A vet tech from their local vet clinic comes onto the farms twice during the season and observes the cows as they walk back to their paddock after milking. All the cows are scored and Spencer-Bower gets a summary of the results.

“It’s money well spent, I know I get a good return from it,” he says.