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Lameness is one of the foremost health and welfare challenges facing the UK dairy industry (Farm Animal Welfare Council 2009). Recent initiatives including the Bristol University Healthy Feet Project, which has been extended to the wider industry by DairyCo, have highlighted the role of mobility scoring for detecting lame cows, monitoring herd prevalence and motivating staff to improve lameness levels. However, there is little published evidence describing the expected rate of change in mobility score (MS) in the short term. This study used individual cow MS records, collected as part of a larger trial on early treatment of lameness (Leach and others 2012), to explore the rate of progression of lameness cases between consecutive scoring events.
The data were collected on four dairy farms in South West England during the winter housing periods only for three consecutive years (2010–2012). All lactating cows in each herd were mobility scored fortnightly during these periods, with a total of 1120 different cows scored at least once. MSs were assigned based on the widely used 0–3 scale, where 0 indicates good mobility, 1 indicates imperfect mobility, 2 indicates impaired mobility and 3 indicates severely impaired mobility (Anon 2013). Animals scoring MS 2 or greater were considered lame. One observer collected the majority of …