I have just been running some trimming workshops on the West Coast and found myself regularly confronted with the continuing acceptance that physical force is the main contributor to lameness in New Zealand, together with a reluctance to accept that Laminitis is a very real problem here. So, do we have Laminitis in New Zealand? There are people who believe we don’t because “it has not been proven”.
What difference would it make? Why would we care? I believe that if you really want to solve a problem, you need to know what causes the problem. How else are you going to solve it? I believe that if we try to keep lameness under control by solving all the physical issues then we are only solving the symptoms. So, what is my point? When I talk about Laminitis I am talking about an unhealthy live tissue in the hoof caused by internal imbalances.

The symptoms of an unhealthy live tissue are haemorrhaging, holes and cracks, deformed hoofs and just about anything else we see wrong with the hoof. Most people mistakenly assume that all those symptoms are caused by standing on stones and other “sharp objects”, or “pushing cows too hard” and therefore adding too much pressure on the hooves. The problem here is that this has never been proven to be the case. However, the fact that those symptoms are mainly a domestic cow issue and not so much a wild cow issue shows that there has to be more going on than just physical forces. I would argue that a cow in the wild is a lot harder on her hooves than a domestic cow on our farms. The fact that those symptoms are more cow-related than hoof-related raises questions.

Why are those symptoms symmetrical on both feet on most cows? That doesn’t make sense if it was caused by physical force. Also, why do we see haemorrhaging up on the dorsal wall? How could physical force be the cause of that? Why do we see the outer claw deformed much more often than the inner claw? Why do most cows go lame on the rear hooves if they only carry 40% of the weight? Why do we see mostly the outside claws displaying these symptoms if this is supposed to be the claw with the most protection? Why does it have a positive effect on the cow when we take some of that protection away by trimming? Think about it. How do you explain all those things from a physical force point of view? Research overseas has shown that diet and stress have a major impact on lameness. I know we are in New Zealand, but if it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it waddles like a duck and it flies like a duck it probably is a duck! We need to understand this properly because it will affect our management style – all of a sudden, controlled starvation becomes a problem rather than a tool, only one water trough may not be enough, and having cows out of the paddock for long periods of time becomes an issue, and the list goes on.cattle-hoof-trimming-white-line-1

I do not understand why people deny that Laminitis is in dairy cows in New Zealand. I do not see any reason for that especially when the evidence so clearly points in that direction. Just for the record, I believe that just about every cow in New Zealand has some degree of Laminitis in their feet. In the majority of cases it is not severe enough to be a problem for the cow. However, I believe it is by far the biggest cause of lameness on our dairy farms. Let me know your thoughts, email me at fred@veehof.co.nz