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Claw condition and claw health in dairy cows: how important is access to pasture?
  1. Nina Volkmann and
  2. Nicole Kemper
  1. Institute for Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Farm Animal Behaviour (ITTN), University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Germany
  1. E-mail for correspondence: nicole.kemper{at}

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Lameness in dairy cows can be influenced by various factors, including nutrition, genetics, hygiene conditions and housing. Poor claw health in cows can lead to reduced productivity and also cause pain and discomfort which compromises animal welfare.

Dry and clean walking surfaces are considered two of the most important parameters influencing claw health of cows housed indoor, together with soft grounds and enough space to move.1 Housing cows on hard or concrete flooring is associated with increased claw disorders compared to cows kept on natural surfaces such as pasture.2 Also a long period of exposure of claws to soiled and moist floors may influence the hardness of claws, causing claws to soften and increasing the risk for claw defects, lesions and infections.3 Telezhenko4 coined the term ‘locomotion comfort’ to describe the optimal conditions required for movement, natural gait and activity of the animal. Pasture is considered the most comfortable surface type for the claws,5 and cows’ pasture access is reported to have beneficial effects on claw health in comparison to non-grazing cows.6

A new study on the effect of pasture access on claw hardness and health is summarised on p 79 of this week's issue of Vet Record. Armbrecht and others7 investigated the effect of access to pasture on claw health and condition in 240 cows from …

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