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Lameness Troubleshooting Tool Now Available to Dairy Farmers
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 05/13/2009

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. Working with experts from Zinpro, Dr. Nigel Cook of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, was able to apply his knowledge to what is now called the 'First Step' software tool.

"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," Dr. Cook said. "To communicate where a farm is failing is really difficult. We really needed a step-wise analytical 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.

"The program helps the consultant determine the most significant areas to focus on," Dr. Cook says. "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.

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. Ultimately, there will be hundreds of consultants capable of helping farms significantly improve their lameness problems, thereby improving dairy cow well-being on thousands of dairy farms world-wide.

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