The Challenges of balancing between productivity and claw health of dairy cows in modernized husbandry in smallholder farming units.
MetadataShow full item record
Progressive reduction in land holdings has necessitated establishment of smallholder zero-grazing dairy units for livelihood of low income families. Adoption of confined housing in which cattle spend long hours standing on hard floors and supplementation with high levels of concentrates for improved milk production has exacerbated occurrence of claw-horn disorders in dairy cows. A cross-sectional study was carried out in 32 smallholder dairy units in which 300 dairy cows were thoroughly examined for claw lesions through trimming of a thin layer of the claw-horn on weight- bearing surface. The objectives of the study were to determine the prevalence and type of claw lesions as well as their risk factors in these smallholder zero-grazing dairy units. A high prevalence (88%) of claw lesions was found among the 300 dairy cows examined of which 69% were subclinical and 31% clinical. Laminitis had the highest prevalence (70.3%) and the rest of the lesions whose profiles are presented in this paper were laminitis-related. The importance of laminitis is that it has the subtle phase (subclinical laminitis) whose effects are long-standing and devastatingly irreversible. Stepwise logistical regression analysis (screening interactions of all the possible risk factors) revealed that the most significant zero-grazing housing-and management-level contributor to the occurrence of subclinical laminitis was regular concentrate feeding (O.R. = 2.08, χ2 = 5.5, P = 0.0212). Subclinical laminitis subsequently predisposes claws to several other lesions that cause lowered production. Thus high-level feeding and other modernized husbandry practices such as concrete floors can paradoxically indirectly cause lowered production