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Evidence-based claw trimming for dairy cattle
  1. N. J. Bell, MA, VetMB, PhD, PGcert (VetEd), FHEA, MRCVS
  1. Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK, e-mail:

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CLAW trimming every four to six months has become a routine procedure for the majority of high yielding housed dairy cows. Various methods have been described, but the Dutch Five Step method (Toussaint Raven 1985) is probably the most widely used approach around the world and has been the basis for most research. Despite being the most commonly used protocol internationally, the Dutch Five Step method has remained largely unscrutinised and unaltered in 30 years. The five steps are intended to be used and interpreted in sequence, and involve trimming the dorsal wall toe length to the correct length (step 1); matching length and balancing weight distribution in the other claw of the foot (step 2); creating a concavity within the middle of the sole (step 3); raising a painful claw off the ground through the use of a block and/or by trimming down heel on the affected claw (step 4); and, finally, removing loose horn and ridges at problematic sites (step 5).

Claw trimming of dairy cows has the potential to redistribute weight to the most robust parts of the claw (van der Tol and others 2004), improve grip (Phillips and others 2000), improve gait (Meyer and others 2007), and aid the recovery of painful foot lesions and thereby reduce lameness prevalence, duration and severity (Manson and Leaver 1988, 1989). It can also restore anatomically correct foot shape and mediolateral claw balance to prevent future claw and …

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