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Identifying factors associated with lameness and its impact on productivity in automated milking herds.

R. D. Matson


Identifying factors associated with lameness and its impact on productivity in automated milking herds.
R. D. Matson*1, M. T. M. King1, T. F. Duffield2, D. E. Santschi3, K. Orsel4, E. A. Pajor4, G. B. Penner5, T. Mutsvangwa5, T. J. DeVries1. 1Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph Guelph, ON, Canada, 2Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph Guelph, ON, Canada, 3Lactanet Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada, 4Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary Calgary, AB, Canada, 5Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, SK, Canada.

Voluntary milking is critical for success in automated milking systems (AMS); impaired gait (lameness) may negatively affect the ability and desire for cows to milk voluntarily. The objective of this study was to assess the impact lameness has on the productivity of AMS herds and identify factors associated with lameness. From April to September 2019, 76 robot herds were visited, and data on barn design and farm management practices were collected. Data from AMS units were collected, along with milk recording data for the 6 mo period before farm visits. Farms averaged 99 � 73 lactating cows, 2.3 � 1.4 robot units/farm, 43.9 � 9.0 cows/robot, 36.7 � 4.7 kg/d of milk, a milking frequency of 3.0 � 0.4�/d, and a herd-average SCC of 198.3 � 88.1 (�1,000) cells/mL. Thirty percent (minimum of 30 cows/farm) were scored for body condition (BCS 1 = underconditioned to 5 = over conditioned) and gait (1 = sound to 5 = lame; with clinically lame ≥ 3: 28.6 � 11.7%; and severely lame ≥ 4: 3.0 � 3.2%). Univariable models were used to screen independent variables (as fixed effects) in mixed-effect linear regression models and variables with P < 0.25 were offered to multivariable models. Clinical lameness was 10.2 percentage points (p.p.) less prevalent on farms with sand bedding (P < 0.01) and tended to be 2.8 p.p. lesser for each additional time stalls were raked/d (P = 0.07) and 5.7 p.p. lesser for farms that built new barns vs. retrofitting existing barns (P = 0.07). Herd average milk yield/cow decreased with greater prevalence of clinical (−0.1kg/d for 1 p.p. increase; P = 0.01) and severe lameness (−0.8kg/d with doubling of prevalence from 3 to 6%; P < 0.01). Milk yield/robot decreased with a greater prevalence of clinical lameness (−7.1kg/d for 1 p.p. increase; P = 0.01). Lesser milking frequency was associated with a greater proportion of over-conditioned cows (P = 0.04). SCC was associated with a greater proportion of clinically lame (P < 0.01) and under-conditioned cows (P = 0.05). Overall, this study demonstrates that productivity and milk quality in AMS herds are optimized by maintaining mobility and body condition of cows.

Keywords: automated milking system, lameness, herd management.

Biography: Robert grew up on a family dairy farm in Ontario, Canada. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa in Biochemistry. He is now completing his Masters of Science degree under the supervision of Dr. Trevor DeVries focusing on the effects of Housing and Management on cow health and production in automated milking systems.