When animal health issues are considered, lameness has gained increased attention in the beef cattle industry in recent years. There are a number of factors driving this shift in emphasis, but tops among the reasons are animal performance, health and well-being, said beef specialists with universities in Nebraska and Kansas.
"I don't know that lameness, in general, has increased, but there definitely is an increased emphasis," said Dan Thomson, DVM, and Director of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. "It's one of those things we can grab a hold on, prevent through nutrition, prevent through proper cattle handling and proper facility design, and treat once it happens and do some good for the animals and the industry."
Dee Griffin, DVM, University of Nebraska, Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center, echoed Thomson's sentiment. "It's moved up in relevance not because there's more of it, but because we are better understanding how to deal with it."
Addressing lameness in the beef cattle industry will take a deeper understanding of the issue at the producer level, so that prevention programs can be established. Zinpro Corporation recently released the Step-Up™ Management Program. Developed in conjunction with the Beef Cattle Institute and Kansas State University, the program provides a systematic approach to identify and manage beef cattle lameness.
Connie Larson, Ph.D., Ruminant Research and Nutritional Services Manager, Zinpro Corporation, said that Step-Up begins with locomotion scoring and is designed to be used in multiple segments within the beef industry. "One of the goals of the Step-Up program is to not only diagnose and treat lameness, but to prevent lameness from happening from the beginning," she said. "If we can visually assess locomotion in order to detect lameness in cattle, that provides the avenue to measure, manage and address the issue."
While lameness is viewed as a nuisance issue, Griffin said lameness can drive profitability much more than producers realize. "If an animal has a sore foot, the data says its gain may drop as much as one- third during that time period. It may be a nuisance, but it darn well hurts, and it affects the way the animal behaves all day. It affects the ability to get the best genetic potential out of that animal, and that costs money."
Thomson added that addressing lameness is doing the right thing for the animals, "and doing the right thing for the animals generally correlates well with performance and profitability. Whether it's nutrition, vaccination, pen conditions, all those different types of things, I think we have to be able to communicate - educate - not only the producer, but what a great story to tell to the consumer too."
Thomson believes the development and usage of the Step-Up system will serve the industry well. "I think that over the next five years we'll see a decrease in lameness because of Step-Up, and we see that as money coming back into the pocketbook of the ranchers and farmers," he concluded.
To learn more about locomotion scoring beef cattle, contact your Zinpro representative and visit the Step-Up video library on zinpro.com. Educational posters for beef cattle locomotion scoring and lesion identification are available for request from Zinpro Corporation.