Horn diseases are painful, with pain levels ranging between moderate and severe. Most of the time it affects a cow’s back hooves. In acute cases of laminitis, the claws are often warm. Furthermore, the animal stands and walks uncomfortably and will often lie down. A slow movement with an arched back is also common. In later stages, the claws grow flatter and show ‘growth rings’ on the hoof wall, indicating a history of laminitis.
A herd’s environment is one of the principal causes of horn diseases. Factors to consider include a lack of space, inadequate housing, narrow alleyways, 90-degree turning corners, and excessive walking and standing times. In addition, laminitis may also be due to the release of bacterial toxins into the laminae. This occurs during dietary disturbances, ill health, and other types of stress, especially around calving.
Also address imbalanced rations, milk fever, mastitis, and metritis. Environmental stress and metabolic problems furthermore result in poor horn production. Keep in mind that improper, inadequate, and infrequent trimming creates an imbalance of weight distribution between the claws. This consequently causes pressure points that are detrimental to proper horn production.
Prevention and Management
Because a poor environment is one of the leading causes of laminitis, it is important to pay attention to your herd’s comfort. First of all, make sure you have enough space and comfortable accommodation of your animals. Also minimize standing time to allow for a maximum lay-down time. Furthermore ensure that rations are well-balanced, especially in the pre-calving period. This helps avoid metabolic problems. Also schedule two or three trimming sessions per year for preventative hoof care management. Finally, in cases of laminitis, it is important to restore the claw to its normal form by creating a balance between the two digits – this is easily accomplished by trimming all four feet.
Combat the possible factor(s) that contribute to laminitis problems:
- Practice preventive balancing of the claws (2–3 trimming sessions per year).
- Consult your veterinarian at regular intervals for proper health management and treatment.
- Contact your nutritionist to ensure proper balancing of the rations.
- Reduce excessive waiting and standing for all animals.
- Avoid slippery and overly rough floors, to maintain a stress-free walking environment.
- Allow time for exercise off of concrete flooring to stimulate blood flow in the laminae.
- Ensure enough stalls for proper rest and avoid overcrowding.
- Avoid excessive weight to reduce calving problems and to avoid putting extra weight on the claws.