Herd-level risk factors for lameness in high-producing Holstein cows housed in freestall barns

L. A. Espejo, M. I. Endres

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111 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to investigate the association of some herd-level factors with the prevalence of lameness in 53 high-production groups of Holstein cows housed on 50 commercial dairy farms having freestall barns in Minnesota. Cows in the high-production group (n = 5,626) were scored for locomotion (score of 1 to 5, where 1 = normal and 5 = severely lame) to estimate prevalence of lameness (locomotion score ≥3) in the group. Herd-level variables were used to explain the variation in prevalence among groups. Among the variables tested, herd size, pen space per cow, type and size of milking parlor, total mixed ration content of crude protein and neutral detergent fiber, feeding frequency, linear feedbunk space per cow, type of feed barrier, and use of footbath did not show any association with the prevalence of lameness in the univariate analysis screening test and were not included in the multivariate model. Pen stocking density (cows per 100 stalls), total daily distance between pen and milking parlor, number of cows per full-time employee equivalent, cud chewing index, and pen type were eliminated from the multivariate model in the backwards stepwise procedure. Daily time away from the pen for milking was positively associated with the prevalence of lameness, whereas cow comfort quotient was negatively associated with prevalence of lameness. Prevalence of lameness was greater when farms performed hoof trimming only when the manager decided cows needed it because of hoof overgrowth or lameness compared with farms on which the feet of all cows were trimmed on a maintenance schedule once or twice annually. Brisket board height of more than 15.24 cm and presence of the area behind the brisket board filled with concrete were associated with greater prevalence of lameness. Most of these herd-level factors could be managed to reduce lameness prevalence in commercial dairy farms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-314
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Freestall
  • Lameness
  • Risk factor


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