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J Dairy Sci. 2006 Jan;89(1):139-46.

Effect of hoof pathologies on subjective assessments of dairy cow gait.

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Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Food and Land Systems, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


To explore how hoof pathologies affect dairy cattle gait, we studied cows with sole hemorrhages (n = 14), sole ulcers (n = 7), and those with no visible injuries (n = 17). Overall gait assessments, scored from video using a 1 to 5 numerical rating system (1 = sound, 5 = severely lame) and a continuous 100-unit visual analog scale, found cows having sole ulcers had poorer gait than healthy cows (mean +/- SEM: 4.0 +/- 0.13 vs. 3.1 +/- 0.08, and 59 +/- 3 vs. 46 +/- 2, respectively). Six gait attributes (back arch, head bob, tracking-up, joint flexion, asymmetric gait, and reluctance to bear weight) were also assessed using continuous 100-unit scales. Compared with healthy cows, those having sole ulcers walked with a more pronounced back arch (12 +/- 3 vs. 28 +/- 4), more jerky head movement (2 +/- 2 vs. 10 +/- 3), shortened strides (7 +/- 2 vs. 26 +/- 4), and more uneven weighting among the limbs (16 +/- 2 vs. 32 +/- 3). Of all measures, the numerical rating system most effectively discriminated healthy cows from those with sole ulcers (R2 = 0.73), classifying 92% of animals correctly. No differences were detected among cows with and without sole hemorrhages. Intra- and interobserver reliabilities were reasonable for all measures (R2 > or = 0.64) except joint flexion and asymmetric gait. In summary, subjective assessments of dairy cattle gait provide valid and reliable approaches to identifying cattle with sole ulcers.

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