Mobility Scoring: a tool for tackling lameness

Cattle lameness is still an important issue facing dairy farmers with recent studies showing the lameness prevalence across UK dairy farms to be around 30%, with 26% of cows a score 2 and 4.1% a Score 3. As with most things, prevention is better that cure so routinely mobility scoring your herd will help you spot the earlier signs of lameness, allowing for prompt treatment and therefore higher recovery rates.

How do I score my herd?

  • Ideally mobility scoring should be carried out once a month, either by a trained member of staff or independent mobility scorer. There are often training courses run locally which are RoMS (Registry of Mobility Scorers) approved. It is recommended that the same member of staff carries out the scoring each time to ensure consistency with the results.
  • Choose a day with time after the scoring to separate off the score 2 and 3 cows, so their feet can be lifted to be examined and treated as soon as possible.
  • Choose a good place to stand which will allow you to observe cows walking past naturally, without affecting the cow flow, e.g. as they exit the milking parlour.
  • Monitor each cow individually allowing them to make 6–10 uninterrupted strides, ideally on a hard non-slip surface, such as concrete.
  • Watch the cow from the side and the rear and if possible, as she turns a corner.
  • Record the identities of cows scoring 2 or 3 and schedule treatment with regular checks to ensure treatment is working.
  • Keep a tally of cows that are score 0 and 1.
  • If you are uncertain about the exact score of a cow, make repeat observations. If you are still unsure, examine her feet.
Mobility scoring is an essential part of lameness control and herd health planning

The AHDB Scoring System:

Score 0Good Mobility – Walks with even weight bearing and rhythm on all four feet with a flat back. Long fluid strides possible.

Score 1Imperfect Mobility – Steps uneven (rhythm or weight bearing) or strides shortened: affected limb(s) not immediately identifiable

Score 2Impaired Mobility – Uneven weight bearing on a limb that is immediately identifiable and/or obviously shortened strides (usually with an arch to the centre of the back)

Score 3Severely Impaired Mobility – Unable to walk as fast as a brisk human pace (cannot keep up with the healthy herd). Lame leg is easy to identify – limping; may barely stand on lame leg(s); back arched when standing and walking. Very lame.

Both the AHDB website and YouTube have very useful videos of cattle mobility scoring with examples of each score and what to look for when you are doing the scoring.

What actions should be taken following scoring?

Score 0 – No action needed. Routine preventative foot trimming when required. Record mobility at next scoring session

Score 1 – Could benefit from routine preventative foot trimming when required. Further observation recommended.

Score 2 – Lame and likely to benefit from treatment. Foot should be lifted to establish cause of lameness before treatment. This should be attended to as soon a practically possible.

Score 3 – This cow is very lame and requires urgent attention, nursing and further professional advice and will benefit from treatment. The cow should not be made to walk far and should be bedded on a deep straw yard. In the most severe cases, the only possible solution may be culling.  

What are the benefits of Mobility Scoring?

  • It allows for every cow to be regularly assessed for the early signs of poor mobility. Studies have shown that regular, routine mobility scoring followed by treatment within 48hrs leads to the development of less severe lesions. This decreases the amount of time that an animal is lame, and therefore leads to higher recovery rates and reduced need for repeat treatments.
  • The provision of figures for benchmarking performance. Data from mobility scoring can be used alongside findings at foot trimming to identify the mains causes of lameness and any trends on farm. Discussing this with your vet can then help you to implement the changes that will have the most impact on reducing lameness. Mobility scoring can then be used to monitor the progress once changes have been made.  
  • General foot health awareness is increased, and it motivates farm staff to improve herd mobility and therefore overall herd health.

In conclusion, although it may seem time consuming, regular mobility scoring is an important tool in tackling lameness on farms, as cows with earlier signs of lameness will be observed sooner and if treated promptly, are more likely to recover quicker. Having a good understanding of the prevalence of lameness on your farm can lead to targets being set and the right changes made to reduce it and therefore reducing costs associated with lameness and improving overall herd health.

If you would like a quote for mobility scoring and foot trimming your cattle call Chris Hulbert at Westpoint Farm Vets on 07921 214845.

References:

  • http://dairy.ahdb.org.uk/technical-information/animal-health-welfare/lameness/husbandry-prevention/mobility-scoring/#.XrfmCGhKiUk
  • Lameness prevalence in a random sample of UK dairy herds. Laura Vee Randall, Heather J Thomas, John G Remnant, Nicola J Bollard, Jon N Huxley
  • A Cross-Sectional Study Into the Prevalence of Dairy Cattle Lameness and Associated Herd-Level Risk Factors in England and Wales. Bethany E. Griffiths, Dai Grove White, and Georgios Oikonomou
  • Early Detection and Treatment, Benefits and Drawbacks.  Margit Groenevel. Proceedings of the Cattle Lameness Conference (2014) Sixways, Worcester, pp 13 – 22
  • The effects of early treatment for hindlimb lameness in dairy cows on four commercial UK farms. K.A. Leach, D.A. Tisdall, N.J. Bell, D.C.J. Main, L.E. Green

Written by Sophie Offer BVetMed MRCVS