Solutions For Lameness in Robot Herds

Dairy-Robot Milking

John A. Metcalf, PhD, Ruminant Portfolio Manager, Trouw Nutrition Canada

Lameness is recognised as one of the biggest health issues on dairy farms, resulting in lower milk production and higher culling rates. Research in the Journal of Dairy Science in 2017 showed that lameness costs $235 – $423 per cow.

Lameness is accentuated in robotic milk systems because lame cows will struggle to visit the milking robot as frequently as non-lame cows. Maintaining healthy hooves improves lameness and is a significant factor in profitable for any dairy farm, but in robotic milking systems this becomes even more important to reduce the labour of fetching these animals.

Hoof horn is made from the protein keratin, which uses the B-Vitamin Biotin in it’s synthesis and as an essential factor of the intracellular cementing substance, bonding together the keratin leaflets of hoof horn. That’s why Biotin is often added to the diets of dairy cows when there are problems with lameness. It is expensive, but generally accepted as being beneficial when supplemented at 10 or 20 mg/cow/day. The problem with adding Biotin in this way is that it gets degraded by rumen microbes, resulting in approximately 45% of the supplement being lost before it can be absorbed (and used to grow hoof horn).

That’s the reason that Selko Vivalto includes Biotin in its mixture of B-Vitamins at a level calculated to replace unprotected Biotin in the diet. Removing Biotin from the diet will defray the cost of Vivalto and result in a more economical benefit to supplementation of B-Vitamins. In controlled experiments, B-Vitamin supplements in a fat matrix have been shown to adequately replace 10 mg of Biotin as well as increasing milk production.

In addition to the benefits for hoof health, Vivalto has been shown to increase milk yield in several controlled studies, with a return on investment (ROI) ranging between 15 and 20:1 . In Trouw Nutrition Canada’s 2020 income over feed costs (IOFC) data from Ontario (649 farms) the 186 farms feeding Vivalto had higher IOFC with an ROI of 17:1.

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Trouw Nutrition’s team of trained Dairy Nutrition Advisors have the tools to support you in meeting your goals, whether you are thinking about transitioning to this technology or currently working with milking robots.