The incidence of lameness is so high in many dairy herds that treatment of all lame cows is not feasible (Horseman et al., 2013). Because soft barn flooring may alleviate the problem of claw horn lesions, we conducted a study to measure the ground reaction forces and pressure distribution in claws on 4 different surfaces.
Materials and Methods
Using a force plate and a pressure plate system, 12 lactating dairy cows were tested standing on a level hard surface, the same surface with a 3% incline toward the front legs, a level firm rubber mat and a level soft rubber mat. The latter mat was soft because of multiple, evenly-spaced, rubber projections on the underside of the mat. The vertical ground reaction forces were measured, and the mean and maximum pressures on the claw soles calculated separately for the fore and hind limbs. The pressures in the toe and heel regions of the lateral and medial claws were also calculated.
The four surfaces did not differ with respect to the pressure distribution recorded in the lateral and medial claws. The medial claws of the forelimbs and the lateral claws of the hind limbs consistently sustained significantly greater pressures than their partner claws. The heel regions of the medial forelimb and lateral hindlimb claws were exposed to the greatest pressure on all surfaces, with the exception of the soft rubber mat, where the mean pressure of the toe region of the lateral hind claw was slightly higher than that of the heel region. The mean pressures on the firm rubber mat and the maximum pressures on the soft rubber mat were significantly larger than on the other surfaces.
Conclusions and Discussion
The tested surfaces had no significant effects on the pressure distribution between paired claws, but one rubber mat had a modifying effect on mean and the other on maximum pressures. These findings can explain why sole ulcers still occur in herds kept on rubber flooring (Kremer et al., 2007), although they also can help to explain cow preferences for rubber flooring (Eicher et al., 2013; Vanegas et al., 2006).
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