Hoof disease is generally painful, and lame animals have trouble standing up and lying down. It also increases the risk of teat damage and udder inflammation. That can reduce the quantity and quality of milk produced as well as the fertility. By contrast, healthy animals are fully productive, have less need for antibiotics as well as other medicines and live longer. This enhances the dairy farm’s economic viability.
Breeding healthy animals
Unproductive Swiss dairy cattle go for slaughter – one in three of them because of hoof disease. The «Healthy hooves – a firm foundation for the future» project, which is receiving financial support from the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG), aims to bring about a long-term improvement in the hoof health of Swiss dairy cattle. The project was launched in 2019. By 2024, workers responsible for the health of cattle hooves will collect the data for 200,000 cows. This data will be used especially for developing breeding-related parameters. As a result, all Swiss dairy farms will in future be able to breed cattle with healthier hooves, thus also helping to reduce consumption of antibiotics and disinfectants containing heavy metals.
Supporting owners of cattle
If a farm has cattle in its herd that is suffering from hoof disease, it will receive support from staff at the University of Bern and from the bovine health service (Rindergesundheitsdienst/Service sanitaire bovin) as part of the project. Together they devise and document measures for improving the health of animals. The resulting farm reports containing the measures recommended (relating to animal husbandry, feedstuffs, hygiene, etc.) will then be transmitted to the owner of cattle, hoof-care personnel and the veterinary responsible for the farm in question. This will enable the parties involved to implement the «herd with healthy hooves» plan.