Evaluation of lameness in dairy herds in India - Observation on associated pathogenesis and pain perception
A survey was carried out in selected organized farms of West Bengal during summer, Rainy and winter season to assess the incidence, pain prevalence and etiopathogenesis of lameness in dairy cattle. The incidence and prevalence of lameness vary greatly in herds between agroclimatic zones with higher figures observed in New Alluvial Zone of Nadia District. Milk yield reductions were more evident less in Red Laterite zone of Purulia district during winter. In general, milk yield reductions were minimal in summer. Seasonal differences in incidence and prevalence of lameness in summer, rainy and winter season were also evident.
Key words: Dairy cattle, Epidemiology, Lameness, Pain, production Performance.
Lameness is a clinical sign of disease or abnormality of the musculo-skeletal system (Greenough et al, 1981) which can develop as a voluntary effort to reduce pain due to injury or as an involuntary (mechanical) impairment of gait due to damaged muscles, ligaments or nerves. It is estimated that in 90% of cases, lameness is caused by inflammation or injury of the distal parts of the limb (Webster, 1987; O’Callaghan, 2002). The importance of lameness in dairy cattle and its impact on production and animal welfare has been recognized in the last two decades (Kelton et al, 1998; Rushen, 2001) and is now considered as one of the most urgent health and economic problem for the dairy industry (Whitaker et al, 2000; Grohn et al, 2003). Reduced milk production (Warnick et al, 2001; Green et al, 2002), lower fertility (Colam-Ainsworth et al, 1989) and involuntary culling of lactating dairy cattle (Whitaker et al, 2000; Grohn et al, 2003) can result from lameness. Genetic, nutritional, environmental, managemental and infective factors are involved with lameness. Early detection and proper treatment minimizes losses, improves outcome, and reduces animal suffering.
Pain due to lameness decreases the welfare of cows (Whay et al, 1997; 1998; O’ Callaghan 2002) influencing both individual and social behavior. For instance, lame cows have reduced daily activity levels (O’ Callaghan et al, 2003), spending more time lying and less time feeding (Galindo and Broom, 2002). Lame cows are less likely to start social interactions with other cows, although they are as likely to be subjected to aggressive behavior by other animals, as sound cows (Galindo and Broom, 2002).
The aim of the present study was to describe the incidence and prevalence of lameness in dairy cattle in the red laterite of Purulia and New alluvial of Nadia district of West Bengal as well as to detect gait attributes of lameness in dairy cattle that are due to pain along with etiopathogenesis for development of lameness.
Methods and Aims:
The one year study was carried out on dairy farms of Red laterite of Purulia and New alluvial of Nadia district of West Bengal recording parameters such as prevalence of lameness in dairy cows in relation to age, calving and lactation, genetics and conformation, animal behaviour and body weight; effect of pain on production performance; assessment of pain using SDS and VAS score (Flower and Weary, 2005); managerial factors- housing, nutrition and management; evaluation of biomechanics of joints; histopathological examination of hoof and different physiological values (temperature, pulse and respiration rate).
Simple correlation coefficients were calculated among all variables. One-way ANOVA technique followed by Duncan’s test (at 5%) was used to find out the effect of guarding posture, foot bath, feeding before calving on occurrence of lameness and milk yield reduction for each season separately. Similar technique was also used to compare the seasonal means of lame % and milk yield reduction. Student’s t test was also used to compare the zonal means of lame % and milk yield reduction. Two-way ANOVA technique was further used to find out the effects of both zone (level 2) and season (level 3) on lame % and milk yield reduction along with Duncan’s test. Non parametric test like Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare the zonal means of different parameters.
Figures and tables are published separately and are downloadable here.
Results are shown in Table 1, 2, 3 and tables when mentioned in the text. From the statistical analysis (Table-5), it has been observed that incidence (total number of affected individuals) and prevalence (total number of cases in the population, divided by the number of affected individuals in the population of lameness vary greatly in herds between agroclimatic zones being more in New alluvial zone of Nadia district. Milk yield reductions were less evident in New alluvial zone of Nadia district (Table-5) and more present in Red Laterite zone of Purulia district during winter (Table-8). In general, milk yield reductions were minimal in summer time (Table 7). In both study areas, the age of animals more prone to develop lameness was five and half years and average body weight of lame cows was 341.67 kg in Red laterite zone of Purulia district and 378.75 in New alluvial zone of Nadia district (Table-6). Besides, occurrence of lameness was observed during 1st to 7th lactation (Table-1, 2).
Lameness was significantly (at 5% level) more evident (21.63) in summer in New alluvial zone of Nadia district (Table 8). The detailed percent study of different independent variables has been presented in Table 9. The average time spent lying down was significantly more than standing in majority of the observations irrespective of seasons (Table 6). No bedding materials either in the form of saw dust or chopped straw and/ or long straw were provided in floor of any farm. Animals were not provided (83.3%, Table-9) with foot bath, but when foot bath was given in Rainy and Winter, it caused significant difference in yield reduction, being the reduction percentage less if given (Table 10).
All the dairy animals reared under study area have been offered carbohydrate and concentrate (Table 13 and 14) . Overall, all the farms provided fodder with straw (Table 5 & 6). Most animals have not been provided with high dietary protein, balanced diet and mouldy feed (Table 10).
Most of the organized dairy farms in this study have brick soiling for farm track excepting one farm study of New alluvial zone of Nadia district which was having muddy soil (Table 11-12 and 15-16). There was no arrangement for hoof examination and claw trimming in farms of both the agroclimatic zones excepting one farm in Nadia district
Pain Scoring and Biomechanical study:
Angle of flexion and extension of affected joints in lame and healthy dairy cows were measured and compared by Goniometric process. Slide attributes such as stride length, height, duration were also studied following the methods of Flower et al., (2005). Strides of sound cows were faster, longer and shorter duration than the strides of lame cows. Lame dairy cows had minimum angulations of the affected joints in comparison to healthy dairy cattle.
SDS score and VAS score were compared for their means and presented in Table-17-20.
All the SDS scores were positively correlated along with type of fodder where as guarding posture was negatively correlated. Body weigh and standing hours were positively correlated with percentage of lameness in summer and rainy season. Foot bath and reduction of milk yield were negatively correlated in summer and rainy season. Feeding before calving were in negative correlation with milk yield reduction in winter season.
Duncan’s test results (Table 10):
1. Lameness percentage was lowest with guarding posture score 0 for summer season.
2. For rainy and winter seasons, percentage of milk yield reduction was lowest with guarding posture score 1.
3. Milk yield reduction was lowest when foot bath was given (Foot bath score 1) in rainy and winter seasons.
4. Milk yield reduction was comparatively lower in rainy and winter season if the animals were provided feeding before calving (feeding before calving score 1)
Body weight was significantly correlated with lame % at 5 % either for simple or by rank correlation coefficient under each season of study. Floor type was significantly associated with lame % at 5 % for season 1 and 2 if only simple correlation study is considered. But foot bath and feeding before calving were significantly correlated at 5 % with yield reduction either by simple or by rank correlation method but under season 2 and 3. Simple correlation coefficient between SDS score F & W was significant at 5 % with yield reduction at season 3. Again simple correlation coefficient between guarding posture was significant at 5 % with lame % at season 1.
Factor analysis results:
Only factors corresponding to given values more than 1 were considered for detail study.
At summer, total five components were extracted explaining above 87% of total variation of the experiment. First component consists of all type of SDS scores, fodder application in contrast to floor type and guarding posture accounting about 35% of variance. Second component accounted for above 17% of total variance consisting of body weight, lame % and hour standing in contrast to hour lying. Third component had two contrasting variables namely house type and feeding before calving and accounted 14.73 % of total variance. Both lactation stage and age of the animal contributed to fourth factor explaining 10.18 % of variation. Whereas the fifth and last factor was having two variables namely yield reduction and foot bath in contrast accounting 10.03 % of total variance further.
For the rainy season, five components were extracted explaining 88% of total variation of the experiment. First component consisted of all type of SDS scores in contrast to floor type and guarding posture accounting above 31% of variance. Second component accounted for above 17% of total variance, consisting of body weight and lame % as two contributing variables. Third component had two variables namely feeding before calving and footbath in contrast to yield reduction which accounted 15.88 % of total variance. Hour standing, house type and fodder application in contrast to hour lying contributed to fourth factor explaining 14.73 % of variation further. Whereas the fifth and last factor was having two variables namely age of the animal and lactation stage accounting about 9 % of total variance further.
For the winter season, total five components were extracted explaining above 88% of total variation of the experiment. First component consisted of all type of SDS scores and fodder application in contrast to floor type and guarding posture accounting about 31% of variance. Second component accounted for above 17% of total variance consisting of body weight and lame %. Third component had two variables namely feeding before calving and footbath in contrast to yield reduction which accounted 16.93 % of total variance. Hour standing and house type in contrast to hour lying contributed to fourth factor explaining 14.35 % of variation further. Whereas the fifth and last factor was having two variables namely age of the animal and lactation stage accounting 9.39 % of total variance further.
Histopathological examination of tissues taken from hoof of lame animal revealed havarsian system of bony plate with regular orientation and formation of young plumped blood vessels in congested stage and hyperemia. Proliferation of fibroblast cells along the margin of boundary of havarsian system was still going on. Multiple number of angiogenic points suggested proper repair and bone formation procedure (Figure 1).
Occurrence of lameness in the 341-378 Kg body weight might be due to the fact that in this age group, animals are growing and more active, facing with different harsh environments in general and foot in particular, more than the adult animals, which are comparatively less dynamic and thus, causing less harm to foot. Similar observations were recorded by Young et al, (1983); Yishitani et al, (1990); Jubb and Malmo (1991). Studies on the relationship between lameness and lactation status have been controversial. This may be reflection of different farming practice (Whitaker et al, 1983; Barkema et al, 1994; Lucey et al, 1986; Collick et al, 1989). In a standard farming practice dairy animals should lie down for about 9-12 hours daily (Suss and Andreay, 1984). Lying down is considered an important aspect of behaviour in dairy cows (Wierenga and Hopster, 1990). In the present study, the recorded average period spent lying down was 15.85 hours per day which may be due to fewer disturbances (Singh et al, 1994), suggesting that they needed to alleviate pain and were in some discomfort.
The prevalence of lameness among adult dairy cattle derived from this study provide a basis for a possible epidemiology of lameness. The estimated incidence of lameness in Great Britain ranged from 5.5 to 65% (Whitaker et al, 2000; Ward, 1994; Nandi et al, 2008; Murray et al, 1996). However, similar to that reported by Clarkson et al (1996), there was an uneven distribution between different seasons in this study.
Besides, seasonal differences in incidence and prevalence may be due to differences in management of cattle during winter and summer (Murray et al, 1996; Whitaker et al, 2000). The apparent gradual increment of lameness in rainy season in the present study might be due to rainfall and associated wet weather which triggers the bacterial contamination. There is a direct correlation between the amount of rainfall and incidence of lameness in dairy cattle (Eddy and Scott 1980; Williams et al, 1986; Harris et al, 1988). In the present study, incidence of lameness in winter season was higher which might be due to deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals in and along with fodder that impair the proper hoof health; less moisture leads to crack in hoof and also hardy soil, a predominating factor for causing lameness. In an epidemiological study of dairy cow lameness involving 37 farms, the incidence of lameness were higher in winter time than in summer, particularly infectious diseases such as heel horn erosion and digital dermatitis were involved (Murray et al, 1996).
Milk production in lame cows may be affected due to perception of pain and subsequent anorexia. Another explanation might be that the lame cows appeared significantly more restless while being milked than the normal cows, presumably because they were in some discomfort (Hassall et al, 1993). Difference of milk yield reduction in varied seasons might be due to the availability of quality green fodder, intake of adequate clean water, incidence of lameness causing pain and in turn anorexia.
Nutrition is considered to be an important factor involved in the initiation of laminitis (Nocek, 1997). Increased feeding of fermentable carbohydrates has been implicated as a cause of laminitis in cattle (Nocek, 1997; Thoefner et al, 2004). In a series of studies, a higher concentrates forage ratio (Manson and Leaver, 1989), a higher total concentrate amount (Manson and Leaver, 1988; Livesay et al, 1998) all resulted in a higher lameness score than in control cows fed less intensive diets.
In the aetiopathogenesis of lameness, nutrition plays an important role as a risk factor for laminitis (Akerblom, 1932, 1934; Urmas, 1968; Amstutz, 1985; Peterse, 1985; Burtan et al, 1990; Greenough 1990; Greenough et al, 1990; Vermunt and Greenough 1990; Allenstein, 1994; Ossent and Lischer, 1994; Vermunt, 1994; Shaver, 1994). Other important nutrients appear to be vitamin A and D, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, magnesium, cysteine and energy (Smart, 1985; Baggot et al, 1988). Deficiencies of Copper and Zinc and excessive proportions of sulphur in the ration may increase the incidence of infectious pododermatitis and hence lameness (Amstutz, 1985; Johnson and Schugel, 1994).Whenever nutritional factors adversely affect the formation of stable keratin or vascularisation of sensitive tissue, lameness may occur (Mac Lean 1966; Livesey and Fleming, 1984). In the herds in the present study, lameness might be developed due to inadequate provision of green fodder and lack of high dietary protein and balanced diet. This may be attributed to the agro-climatic and soil condition of the specific area along with lack of proper managemental education of the owner.
Proper maintenance of housing, farm tracks and stockman’s practice play an important role in reducing the incidence of lameness (Chesterton, 1989; Fraser and Broom, 1990). On the contrary, Huang et al, (1995) suggested that cows whose feet were trimmed frequently had a higher probability of repeated episodes of lameness, even thought there are a number of benefits pertaining to the hoof care (Logue et al, 1990). Regular claw trimming especially before calving has been found to reduce lameness associated with laminitis (Manson and Leaver, 1988). Stockmanship being an important contributory factor, low standards has been related to a high prevalence of summer lameness (Ward, 1994). Poor knowledge and awareness of the subject, and inadequate training in foot care, have also been associated with a high prevalence of lameness (Mill and Ward, 1994). Regular hoof examination was not carried out in this study, thus the lack of foot care as contributory factor for lameness, could not be evaluated.
In the present study, maintenance of farm tracks did not play vital role in lameness as mostly the animals were stall fed.
Many studies have reported an association between housing and lameness (Arkins, 1981; Baggott and Russell, 1981). Majority of lame dairy cattle examined were kept in Pacca (concrete floor) housing. The concrete floor appeared to slope from front to back. Concrete rough based floor being abrasive and retaining moisture due to accumulation of excreta promote the development of lameness. Housing on concrete has a more deleterious effect on claw health than housing on soft surfaces such as straw (Bazeley and Pinsent, 1984). Wet or moist conditions on concrete floors may increase the incidence of heel-horn erosion (Wells et al, 1995). The longer cows’ feet are in-contact with faeces and the worse the cleanliness of the floor, the higher is the risk of foul-in-foot occurring (Berg and Lon, 1975; Berg et al, 1984) and possibly re-infection. Bedding may play an important role in the prevention of claw lesions; it keeps the feet dry which has a positive effect on claw health (Brochart, 1987). There is a higher incidence of lameness in cattle on concrete (Brochart, 1987). An abrasive surface along with excessive moisture predisposes cattle to sole lesions (Murphy and Hannan, 1986). Results from the present study indicates that lameness developed easier by keeping the animals on concrete hard moist floor with abrasive surface. Besides, lack of bedding appears to play a vital role to influence lameness. Foot baths are advocated for their disinfectant and astringent action (Baggott and Russell, 1981). In the present study, they were not a general practice on the majority of farms. However, considering the multiplicity of factors involved, foot baths alone may not be able to prevent lameness in a herd (Sumner and Davis, 1984).
Many tools exist to assess pain in human beings, and a few have been used in veterinary medicine. None are perfect, primarily because of the subjective and immeasurable nature of pain even in people (Hamill-Ruth and Marohn, 1999) and especially in veterinary patients because they can not communicate verbally. Currently, there does not seem to be suitable “tool” accurately. However, in the present study an attempt has been made to evaluate the pain perception in lame cows following method of Flower and Weary (2005). In lame cows, the pain not only originates from the actual site of the lesion located in the digit but also the tissues surrounding it which may become sensitized, making the use of part or the entire affected claw or foot uncomfortable for walking. When the central nervous system is sensitized by stimuli originating from digital lesion, the whole body becomes hypersensitive to a variety of stimuli which may accentuate the pain response. Therefore, lame cows experiencing pain in an affected foot may feel excessively disturbing with other traumatic stimuli usually little or not painful such as being pushed or barged by other cows, excessive goading by the stockman, walking on uneven sharp or slippery surfaces, all of which may produce an exaggerated pain response (Whay, 1997); this behaviour in lame cows may also occur in presence of non-traumatic stimuli such as milking or manoeuvring in and out of cubicles. In the present study, similar results were also found in lame dairy cows compared with healthy animals.
The measurement of the nervous response to a painful stimulus has been widely used as a means of testing the analgesic efficacy of drugs (Nolan et al, 1987; Tasker and Melzack, 1989; Fisher et al, 1991). In recent years, it has been found that the threshold to painful stimuli change in response to pain and this change is seen as an indication of an alteration in nerve function or in nociceptive processing at higher level (Woolf, 1983; Woolf and Wall, 1986; Cook et al, 1987) and results in alterations in normal physiological parameters having incremental variation concomitant with pain. Laminitis is a chronic inflammatory condition (Bargai et al., 1992) leading to increased temperature, pulse and respiratory rate. Diagnosis of lameness, laminitis and associated degree of damage of hoof by histopathological findings provide a basis for a successful therapeutic approach and suggest preventive package to the ailing and other healthy herd mates. The findings in the present study confirm the observations of Nibson (1963) and Andersson and Bergman (1980).
The authors are thankful to Dr. Lalkrishna, Assistant Director General Indian Council of Agricultural Research for giving necessary permission to publish the data from ICAR ad-hoc project.
S. K. Nandi*†, S. Roy*, P. Mukheerjee*, A. Goswami** and D. Mazumder***
* Department of Veterinary surgery and Radiology, Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, West Bengal University of Animal & Fishery Sciences,
37, Kshudiram Bose Sarani, Kolkata- 700 037, West Bengal, India.
** Director, Directorate of Open and Distance Learning, University of Kalyani, Kalyani, Nadia, West Bengal, India.
*** Reader and Head, Department of Agricultural Statistics, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Nadia, West Bengal, India.
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FIRST PUBLISHED JULY 2009