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THE modern day dairy cow is an efficient athlete whose game is the production of milk. She takes her special place in the process of converting air, water and sunshine into milk and meat without choice or objection. She rarely complains and readily adapts her behaviour and habits to suit the needs of her keepers, who take the responsibility for her health and welfare. She is a stoical creature, sometimes tolerating discomfort and pain to the point that her distress is not obviously apparent. We know that she can tolerate significant levels of pain without showing overt signs, but chronic pain sensitises her to other painful or uncomfortable stimuli, making the abject animal reluctant or unable to partake in normal behavioural routines such as feeding, lying down and socialising. She can consequently slip into decline, where her health and welfare is compromised without being noticed (Galindo and Broom 2002).
Lameness is a major problem for the dairy cow, and much work has been done in recent years to investigate the causes and implement controls to prevent and treat this most significant production disease of dairy cattle. While modern farm housing systems may appear as obvious causes of …
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