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Title: Lameness in beef cattle : establishing a knowledge base
Author: Tunstall, Jay
ISNI:       0000 0005 0288 1574
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2020
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Cattle lameness is a considerable welfare concern in the United Kingdom (UK). However, there is a paucity of published literature regarding lameness in UK beef cattle. The aim of this study was to establish a baseline of information on lameness in UK beef cattle. A four point locomotion scoring system was developed and 40 video clips of beef cattle produced, along with a short training package. These were shown to eight livestock researchers, eight livestock veterinary clinicians and eight veterinary students and the locomotion scoring results from these participants were studied for intra- and inter-observer agreement. Results for both intra- and inter-observer agreement were acceptable, and this scoring system is recommended for use. A cross sectional study of 18 finishing units and 12 suckler farms estimated a mean farm level lameness prevalence of 8.3% (range 2.0 – 21.2%) for finishing cattle and 14.2% (range 0 – 43.2%) for suckler cows. White line disease and claw overgrowth were the two most prevalent lesions positively associated with lameness for finishing cattle and white line disease and under run sole were the two most prevalent lesions positively associated with lameness for suckler cows. For finishing cattle; poor pen ventilation, high grip flooring and a large pen area provided per animal, and for suckler cows; increasing age and poor pen ventilation were all suggested as risk factors for lameness, and are worthy of further investigation. Finishing cattle were repeatedly weighed and locomotion scored, and slaughter data collected during a longitudinal study of three farms. Finishing cattle that were lame once or more were estimated to have a 240g reduction in average daily live weight gain. The impact of lameness increased as the proportion of sessions in which an animal was scored as lame increased. Beef farmers underestimated lameness on their farms, with a mean underestimation of 7 % (95% CI 5 – 9%), when compared to researcher locomotion scoring. Interviews of these 21 farmers identified i) perception of lameness prevalence, ii) technical knowledge and skills, iii) perception of the impact of lameness and iv) barriers to the control of lameness as important themes regarding their approaches to treatment and control of lameness. Important behaviours, such as contraindicated lameness treatment methods, the absence of treatment and confusion regarding transportation of lame animals were identified. A large scale questionnaire, with 532 eligible responses, found that farmers estimated a low prevalence of lameness on their farms, with a mean farm level prevalence of 0.6% for finishing units, and 2% for suckler herds. Most farmers lacked suitable, safe facilities for examining all four feet of cattle, and some declared that they waited a while before treating lame cattle, whereas others reported that they did not treat lame cattle at all. Conflicting opinions regarding dealing with chronically lame animals was clear, with some farmers feeling that they could transport lame animals to slaughter, and others feeling that they could not. Reported barriers to both treatment and prevention of lameness largely mirrored the themes identified during interviews of the 21 farmers, being i) facilities and location, ii) staff, time and knowledge and iii) concerns over drug use. These results provide a baseline for further research into lameness in beef cattle, but also from which to further support the UK beef industry with farmer engagement and knowledge exchange, aiming to prompt and support behaviour change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral