Thursday, 17 February 2011 12:23

Cheaper than a lame cow

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COWSLIPS ARE lifesavers for many cows. Without them many more cows would go to the works. This assumes the slips are put on correctly; I see many instances where they weren’t.


Some dairy farmers think cowslips are wonderful, some think they’re too expensive and some couldn’t make them stick on longer than a few steps. Others commented “just make sure you don’t have any lame cows”.

Most farmers I know haven’t got easy answers to their lameness issues.

Sometimes we come across a cow that has had a block applied to its sore claw. This shows some farmers don’t understand how claw blocks work.

The idea of a block is to glue it underneath the healthy claw so the sore claw is relieved from carrying any weight, allowing it to heal faster. The cow should then be walking better straight away because she is suffering much less pain.

A block should last three or four weeks.

Our company uses and sells Demotec FuturaPad claw blocks instead of cowslips. Mainly this is because they are easy to work with, are nowhere near as weather-dependent in the time they need to set (cold and hot days) and, most importantly, we can place the block much better on the foot.

Often you find with the shoe-type blocks that they sit too far forward. This makes the heel part of the block wear too fast or they may even collapse in that part of the block.

The cow has no choice but to walk on the heel of her foot which puts an enormous strain on the tendon keeping the pedal bone down. This can cause so much stretch in some cases that there is a degree of lasting injury.

With a Futura pad you can place the block as far back as you like, though obviously you don’t want put it too far back.

The back part of the block should be flush with the heel of the cow. It doesn’t matter at all if the toe is sticking over the front as long as the heel is flush. This way the block will wear more evenly and that is better for the ligaments.

The block should also be flush with the inside of the claw and needs to be as flat as possible and not on an angle.

Remember that the block is there to support the weight of a cow. That can only be achieved if the block is placed square and not too far forward.

The price of a block is often challenged.  It does pay to shop around; there can be big variations in the prices of the same products. But even if blocks were sold for $100 they  would still be cheaper than a lame cow.

Fred Hoekstra is managing director, Veehof Dairy Services Ltd.


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