Last month I attended the International Lameness in Ruminants Conference in Tokyo, Japan. This is a conference where the latest research in lameness is presented from all over the world. You wouldn’t necessarily think of Japan as a dairy country, but dairy is actually a significant industry there and so with that comes lameness, which means that Japan has professional hoof trimmers, vets, researchers and everything else they need to keep up with the rest of the world. In Japan, they organize hoof trimming competitions for professional hoof trimmers. The aim is to trim a cow using a chisel, hammer and a hoof knife. The trimmer is not allowed to use a crush, instead, he or she has an assistant who helps to control the cow. The cow is then trimmed in a very similar manner as to how a horse gets trimmed. It is interesting to see but if we had to trim cows that way I probably would have very long arms and a very sore back – just google ‘Japanese Hoof Trimming’ for a demonstration!

This conference is held every two years in a different country and Digital Dermatitis usually takes up a lot of the conference time, however, this year the biomechanics of the foot got significant attention. I was asked to run a workshop with Prof. Dr Christof Mulling from Germany. Prof. Dr Mulling is a well-respected dermatologist who does a lot of work with horses, cows and pigs. In our workshop, we looked at the weight bearing between the medial and lateral claw before trimming, after trimming and on rubber matting. We had a digital pressure plate similar to what some shoe shops use. The pressure plate is basically a thin flexible mat with lots of sensors in it that is connected to a laptop. When a cows foot stands on the mat the sensors measure the weight in such a way that we can see where the hoof touches the ground, how much weight is on each spot and what area of the hoof doesn’t touch the ground. We used a hydraulic press equipped with a custom-made clamp that held cadaver feet in a natural position.

With this setup, we could simulate the pressure applied to a cows foot as she stands and measure the pressure points of the feet on the ground and also the load-bearing difference between the medial and lateral claw. It was interesting to see that correct trimming considerably increased the surface area of the hoof that touches the ground. But more importantly, it showed the improved load bearing difference between the medial and lateral claw before and after trimming. This demonstrated very nicely why preventative trimming is so beneficial for our cows because we were able to trim feet that had had a 30:70% load bearing difference between the medial and lateral claw back to a 50:50%. Reducing the load on the lateral claw makes this claw less vulnerable and therefore less prone to lameness.

Please feel free to send comments or questions about lameness to Fred at info@veehof.co.nz, or contact us if you have enquiries about our trimming services as the end of the season is a good time to consider doing preventative trimming to ensure your cows feet are in the best possible shape to face the challenges and stresses of the new season.