A Fresh Approach to Mobility

Advanced Nutrition recently held a workshop for the future of high yielding dairy herds focusing on lameness prevention for optimal performance. British Dairying reports.

A Fresh Approach to Mobility

On average, UK farms experience 30 – 33% lameness across their herd and mobility must become a top priority. Not only does it have a significant financial implication, its impact on animal health and welfare cannot be ignored.  

“The dairy industry has really progressed over the past ten to twenty years with herd sizes and milk yields increasing, advancements in technology and improvements in environments and disease control," says Eoghan Mullery, Technical Director at Advanced Nutrition. "However, lameness continues to be a real bottleneck on all farms, including our most progressive. Education is the key here.”

Will Tulley, MRCVS, Head of Technical at Advanced Nutrition, and part of its mobility management team agrees, “Mobility is one of the main production diseases that the dairy industry needs to tackle. Previously the focus on lameness has been too piecemeal, looking at issues in isolation. We saw the need for a new focus to be able to drive results on our farms, especially for our high yielding herds. Advanced Mobility brings together all the data we collect on farm and is bespoke to the units we work with. We work across the whole farm and use a risk-based approach that works. Advanced Mobility is helping our dairy farms to correctly identify the bottlenecks limiting progression. It’s a holistic approach where everyone who has an impact on mobility is educated on the ways to tackle it with farm staff, managers, the foot trimmer, nutritionist, and the vet all working together. We want to ensure farms are moving forward on this issue.”

The meetings drew on experience gained from the firm's international consultancy work on robotic herds to give an excellent working example of the impact poor mobility can have on individual animals. "Cows with below optimum mobility tend to struggle to achieve predicted intakes of mixed ration at the trough, where her forage and other fibre sources are," says Eoghan. "While she may visit the robot less frequently, when she does, she will get rewarded with concentrate, which while balanced and safe with good trough intakes, can create poor rumen conditions if mobility has hindered those intakes. The result we see is a perfectly well-balanced ration on paper actually creating challenges for rumen health.”

Having worked with Nick Bell, MCRVS for several years and undertaken its own research, Advanced Nutrition realised quite early on that in order to manage and prevent lameness on farms one of the main areas that needed a different approach is hoof health.

With this in mind James Wilson, who works alongside Nick Bell at Herd Health Consultancy, was invited to the meetings and spoke from both a research and practical level, as well as demonstrating the latest in foot trimming techniques.

James Wilson comments, “Lameness in intensive dairy systems is often associated with claw horn lesions (including sole bruising, ulceration and white line disease) however, there is little knowledge of treatment, mainly due to a lack of investment in this area when compared to Digital Dermatitis for example. Moreover, research has shown the economic implications for improving lameness is massive.”

Early detection

Early detection and prompt effective treatment (EDPET) is key to significantly improve lameness levels on farm. With a history of the disease, lameness only gets worse, cushioning in the sole deteriorates and pain and inflammation increases with each case, says James. "If we can get to it early, we have a better chance of improving lameness.”

Implementing techniques based on the latest research in hoof health, combined with non-sterodial anti-inflammatory drugs (NASAIDS) show significant benefits. A 2015 study looked at 183 cows with acute lameness (two non-lame scores followed by a lame score, determined by fortnightly mobility scoring) resulting from claw horn lesions on a single, hind claw. they were allocated at random one of four treatments as detailed in table one. 


Table 1.


Percentage of Successful Treatments

Therapeutic Trim (TRM)


Therapeutic Trim and Foot Block (TB)


Therapeutic Trim and Ketoprofen (TN)


Therapeutic Trim, foot block and Ketoprofen (TBN)



The results of this study suggest that recovery in animals treated for lameness due to claw horn lesions is maximised by combining a therapeutic trim, foot block and NASAID, based on fortnightly mobility scoring.

Mobility scoring is vital, but its important to consider who is doing it and the resulting actions taken. James recommends scoring fortnightly to identify lame animals and tracking scores to check whether the foot trimming protocols are working.

Foot Trimming
Foot trimmers should be trained and attend regular professional development events (including CPD days, audits and conferences). They need to be trimming correctly and using the best techniques and research to make a difference.  Through James’ extensive work on farm, James estimates that around 60% of farms are over trimming and 40% lack early detection.

Ketoprofen should be given when treating a bruise as well as when applying a block or treating a lesion. A 2022 study identified a substantial reduction in lameness and culling risk when using NASAIDs at calving and for lameness.


Knowledge is key in lameness prevention. Producers who aren't working together with your trimmer, vet and nutritionist are unlikely to make the difference needed to improve lameness, says James.  James comments, “If you get everyone working together with a clear set of objectives and a holistic approach to knowledge sharing then you will start to see the return.”

Greg Leishman, Ruminant Nutritionist at Advanced Nutrition adds, “Knowledge on farm is really holding us back in regard to lameness prevention. We need to increase knowledge to improve performance. This is key to why we introduced a mobility program within a nutritional consultancy. We also encourage our clients to go on a foot trimming course so that they can bring that knowledge with them onto the farm. It’s not about becoming a foot trimmer but having the confidence to pick a cow out and treat it before it becomes chronically lame.”



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