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Using cluster analysis to differentiate degrees of lameness in cattle
  1. Christian Lambertz
  1. Research Institute for Organic Farming, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  1. Email: Christian.Lambertz{at}fibl.org

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Lameness can be caused by musculoskeletal and nerve injuries, as well as by infectious, traumatic or diet-related claw disorders. Its prevalence in high-yielding dairy cows in free-stall housing systems generally ranges from approximately 30 per cent to more than 75 per cent.1-5 It causes tremendous economic losses due to treatment costs, additional management time and decreased production.6,7 Additionally, the pain and discomfort suffered by lame animals negatively affects animal welfare. Many claw lesions, like digital dermatitis and sole ulcers, cause pain, while others, such as the frequently occurring heel horn erosion, do not.8 At the same time, the ability of cows to adapt to claw pain differs widely.9-12

Locomotion scoring based on gait and postural changes is a tool to identify lame cows, but subjective assessment of slightly lame animals and non-lame cows with foot pathologies is difficult as there is no gold standard with which to compare.13 The correlation of locomotion scoring with objective measurement methods such as accelerometers and platforms measuring bodyweight distribution is only moderate.14 However, locomotion scoring will remain important given that automatic lameness detection is still far from being adopted in practice.

The combination of locomotion scoring with claw lesion data, which can be easily collected in …

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