Nutrional effects on Cow Mobility

Dairy cattle breeding has increasingly focused on improving the utilisation of feeds to increase yields and performance. Several decades ago when average dairy cattle yields were much lower, mobility problems were much less prevalent. This may also have been due to the smaller size of herd, better labour provision and other factors associated with herd and farm size, such as the shorter distances walked from farm to grazing and herds grazed during the summer versus those housed year-round, but today the link between good nutrition and good foot health in dairy cows is well-proven.

Nutritional factors have a significant impact upon foot health. This may be partly explained by the fact that the sole of the hoof has no direct blood supply and relies on nutrients being passed from the corium via diffusion, making these cells very susceptible to any disturbance in the blood circulation in the corium, and potentially causing softer, less-resilient feet that are more prone to disease and injury.

The balance between the concentrate and fibre constituents of the diet and how they influence the pH of the rumen are the most pressing nutritional issues with regard to mobility, as rumenacidosis has been linked to increased mobility problems in nutritional studies. Dietary protein levels and vitamin and minerals levels are also areas of concern.

Other essential aspects of effective nutrition include the importance of diet consistency and feeding times, regularly pushing-up feeds and providing adequate feed space and water trough space for herds, particularly those growing in size. Another important factor is being aware of heat stress affecting appetites in cattle housed during the summer months.