It was not long ago that I had a farm visit where I found a substantial lameness issue. The producer was at his wit’s end. He had tried it all, and nothing seemed to be a solution. This had been going on for a number of years, and there seemed to be no end in sight. I could hardly imagine the cost and loss figures for this herd: early culling or death, milk loss, endless footbath solutions and wasted time.
During our visit, the producer asked me, “What is one piece of advice you can give me to get things straightened out again?”
This was a powerful question indeed, and we had a great discussion, which I would like to share in a condensed form.
Hoof care is not the only management aspect in your herd
Often, when hoof problems and challenges come our way, we seem to get carried away in a direction where we begin to think that these are the only chores we’re dealing with. However, when we take a step back and let the fog in our minds clear up, we observe that hoof care is only one part of our daily herd management.
A jigsaw puzzle is only complete when all pieces are available and in place. Puzzle pieces are not just squares that lie side-by-side: A puzzle piece interlocks and precisely fits into another piece to make a beautiful finished picture.
Hoof care management is similar. It is precisely connected to the other chores on the dairy. Housing, nutrition, hoof trimming, water management, heat stress prevention, flooring maintenance, calf and heifer raising, and overall health care are all pieces that are spread out on the “dairy farm table.”
I just can’t get my puzzle done …
Isn’t it true? You are making a jigsaw puzzle, and you just can’t find the right piece that fits. All the pieces look the same, and you’ve just about run out of patience … until someone else comes and looks over your shoulder.
Four eyes are viewing the pieces, and it then becomes fun. You’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel and you can share your feelings and frustrations with someone else. So there I stood in the dairy barn with the producer and with lots of questions and lameness challenges.
Ask other professionals to assist
We started our search for pieces that fit by preparing an overview of all aspects of the dairy. We made note of which individuals were connected to the daily management. We then asked those people to participate in a meeting, and together we had an open discussion and shared visions.
This meeting gave all personnel involved new insight into each of our different activities and pointed to ways that we all could help in finding a solution to the lameness puzzle.
Coordinator or consultant
It is important to have a coordinator who assists you as a producer and records all proposals and recommendations. A timeline that includes protocols, habits, goals and expectations is written down, and progress is monitored at regular intervals.
You will achieve better results using combined efforts, and it is definitely more enjoyable than trying to tackle the challenge on your own.
My one greatest piece of advice, therefore, is to get other people on board and share your load. I’m available for further ideas and professional tips on your individual herd’s needs, especially in regards to lameness control. Sign up for my free e-newsletter and blog and receive tips on hoof care. PD