Cow and herd-level risk factors associated with mobility scores in pasture-based dairy cows

O'Connor, A.H.; Bokkers, E.A.M.; Boer, I.J.M. de; Hogeveen, H.; Sayers, R.; Byrne, N.; Ruelle, E.; Engel, B.; Shalloo, L.


Lameness in dairy cows is an area of concern from an economic, environmental and animal welfare point of view. While the potential risk factors associated with suboptimal mobility in non-pasture-based systems are evident throughout the literature, the same information is less abundant for pasture-based systems specifically those coupled with seasonal calving, like those in Ireland. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the potential risk factors associated with specific mobility scores (0 = good, 1 = imperfect, 2 = impaired, and 3 = severely impaired mobility) for pasture-based dairy cows. Various cow and herd-level potential risk factors from Irish pasture-based systems were collected and analyzed for their association with suboptimal mobility, whereby a mobility score of 0 refers to cows with optimal mobility and a mobility score ≥ 1 refers to a cow with some form of suboptimal mobility. Combined cow and herd-level statistical models were used to determine the increased or decreased risk for mobility score 1, 2, and 3 (any form of suboptimal mobility) compared to the risk for mobility score 0 (optimal mobility), as the outcome variable and the various potential risk factors at both the cow and herd-level were included as predictor type variables. Cow-level variables included body condition score, milk yield, genetic predicted transmitting ability for ‘lameness’, somatic cell score, calving month and cow breed. Herd-level variables included various environmental and management practices on farm. These analyses have identified several cow-level potential risk factors (including low body condition score, high milk yield, elevated somatic cell count, stage of lactation, calving month, and certain breed types), as well as various herd-level potential risk factors (including the amount of time taken to complete the milking process, claw trimmer training, farm layout factors and foot bathing practices) which are associated with suboptimal mobility. The results of this study should be considered by farm advisors when advising and implementing a cow/herd health program for dairy cows in pasture-based systems.