Subjective and objective assessment of pain and discomfort due to lameness in dairy cattle
Pain experienced by lame cattle is often masked by their instinctive stoicism, leading to delayed detection and treatment of lameness. This paper investigates the usefulness of posture scoring during locomotion and the evaluation of daily activity levels as indicators of pain and discomfort resulting from lameness in dairy cattle. In this study, 345 lactating cattle were observed over a seven-month winter housing period. The posture of each cow was scored twice weekly using a subjective five-point numerical rating scale. Daily activity levels were measured objectively using pedometers. The effect of lameness on behaviour was addressed. Increased posture scores were associated with the presence of foot lesions (P < 0.001) and with reduced daily activity levels (P < 0.001). In comparison to sound cows, lame cows showed lower daily activity levels (P < 0.001). These results improve understanding of pain-related behaviours in cattle, and such an approach may assist future development of welfare assessment systems.
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