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Hoof trimming around drying off prevents sole ulcers

A study at Aarhus University shows that hoof trimming around drying off is associated with a 20% lower odds of dairy cows developing sole ulcers in the following lactation. However, be aware not to trim too close to calving as this may be associated with an increased risk of abortion.

[Translate to English:] Klovbeskæring omkring afgoldning, er en god strategi til at forebygge sålesår, men bør ikke foretages de sidste fire uger, før kælvning, da det øger abortrisikoen. Foto: Linda S. Sørensen.
[Translate to English:] Klovbeskæring omkring afgoldning, er en god strategi til at forebygge sålesår, men bør ikke foretages de sidste fire uger, før kælvning, da det øger abortrisikoen. Foto: Linda S. Sørensen.

 

Sole ulcer is a prevalent hoof lesion among dairy cows worldwide. It is very painful and negatively affects the cow’s welfare and productivity. Sole ulcer is considered the hoof lesion resulting in the highest costs. The benefit of hoof trimming is widely recognized. However, only very limited scientific evidence exists as to when and how often hoof trimming should be done.

Is it advantageous to trim around drying off?

It is generally recommended to trim dairy cows around drying off, meaning approximately eight weeks before calving. “But even though this is recommended in practice, there is – so far – no scientific evidence supporting that hoof trimming should be done at this time”, says senior scientist Peter T.  Thomsen, Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University.

Based on this, and together with SEGES and University of Copenhagen, he has conducted a large study on the association between hoof trimming around drying off and occurrence of sole ulcers in the following lactation. The researchers retrieved data for the study from the Danish Cattle Database from 2013 to 2017. The study included 621,228 hoof trimmings performed in Danish dairy herds.

Twenty percent lower odds of sole ulcers in cows trimmed around drying off

The results showed that 6.2% of the cows had sole ulcers during the first six months after calving. Among cows hoof trimmed around drying off, 5.5% had sole ulcers compared to 6.6% of cows not trimmed around drying off. Thus, there was a 20% lower odds of sole ulcers in the following lactation for hoof trimmed cows.

Furthermore, the analyses showed that cows with previous episodes of sole ulcers had increased odds of developing sole ulcers again.

Finally, the odds of sole ulcers was higher in older cows. For example, sole ulcers were found in 3.7% of second-parity cows compared to 10.3% of cows having calved four times or more. Within each parity, the same positive effect of hoof trimming around drying off was found, and, in general, there were very small differences between breeds.

“Our results confirm that the recommendation to trim dairy cows around drying off is a good strategy to help prevent sole ulcers”, Peter T. Thomsen concludes.

 

However, Peter T. Thomsen points out that he, together with research colleagues in another scientific study, has documented that hoof trimming late in gestation is associated with an increased risk of abortion. Therefore, the researchers recommend not to trim during the last four weeks before calving (c.f. the article: Hoof trimming late in gestation increases the risk of abortion).

Behind the research

Funding

The Danish Milk Levy Fund    

Collaboration

University of Copenhagen and SEGES    

More information

Link to the scientific article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090023319301418

Contact

Peter T. Thomsen, Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University    

E-mail: ptt@anis.au.dk