MANY studies have shown that, despite years of research, the incidence of lameness in dairy herds in the UK remains unacceptably high. This is partly due to the impact of digital dermatitis, which was first reported in the UK in 1986 and now accounts for some 15 to 20 per cent of lameness cases in cows. More generally, increases in herd size and yield – factors which are themselves associated with an increased prevalence of lameness – have outstripped efforts in control. Lameness is most likely to result from pain in the limb, usually within the foot, and hindfeet are more commonly affected than front feet. It is not the purpose of this article to describe the range of lesions involved and their pathogenesis. Rather, the focus is on management factors involved in the aetiology of lameness, particularly as they relate to cow comfort, nutrition and routine husbandry.
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