Cattle vets are still failing lame cows - Post debate Q&A with speakers

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What is your interest/experience in the subject?

Nick: I have been active as a lameness researcher and veterinary advisor for over 17 years, and with an interest in lameness since before I qualified over 20 years ago.

Sara: I already had an interest in cattle lameness when I graduated as a vet nearly 15 years ago and this has continued to grow. Five years ago, I decided to leave clinical practice and focus solely on lameness and now split my time between providing advisory services to a wide range of agri-businesses and undertaking research in cattle lameness.  

Can you sum up your argument about the role of cattle vets in tackling lameness?

Nick: Vets are at the forefront of health and welfare provision and there is no greater challenge to cattle welfare than lameness.  While nutritionists, consultants and trimmers are responding to clients calls for help, it’s the vet who has the breadth of skill, knowledge and understanding to facilitate the team to get the best results.

Sara: Cattle vets have a huge role to play in helping drive forward improvements in cattle lameness, however, to be successful we need to tackle this industry and need engagement from all stakeholders - as each has an important role to play. There has been a huge amount of activity in the last 20 years towards tackling lameness and vets have been at the centre of this. However, there is always room for improvement, and we need to ensure that vets are armed with the skills and knowledge they need to continue driving the change.

What key messages do you hope the audience took away from the debate?

Nick: Lameness prevalence in the UK is unacceptably high and until you look out for the lame cow at the PD session or see the hoping cows at the TB test or measure the herd mobility, you too will be just as blind to the extent of the problem. There are evidence-based tools and approaches vets can use with clients that improve cattle welfare, herd economics and ease of life for the dairy farmer.

Sara: Regardless of whether national lameness levels have improved, worsened or stayed the same, they are still too high, and vets have a great opportunity to take the lead and tackle lameness head on. There are now far more tools available to help vets engage clients in lameness management compared to ten years ago, including the AHDB Health Feet Programme which offers a structured approach for vets to follow on farm. Whilst we still don’t have all the answers when it comes to lameness, we have enough and can make a difference.

What do you think is the crucial next step for cattle vets in tackling lameness?

Nick: Enrol on an advanced foot trimming course (or a basic one!), become a Healthy Feet Programme deliverer (mobility mentor), become ROMS accredited, benchmark your clients and get involved with lameness research project.

Sara: Make sure your practice has at least one lameness champion that is a trained Mobility Mentor, up to date with the latest research and confident treating lame cows. Set up facilitated discussion groups purely for clients tackling lameness so they can share ideas and success stories. Engage the whole farm team in any discussions on farm, including the foot trimmer and nutritionist. An engaged and enthusiastic team is more likely to be successful in achieving its goals.