Dairy farmer, hoof trimmer, and veterinarian perceptions of barriers and roles in lameness management

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Source: Journal of Dairy Science

ABSTRACT

Lameness is a leading animal welfare concern in the dairy industry. Multiple stakeholders are involved in lameness management on a dairy farm, including farmers, hoof trimmers, and veterinarians. This study sought to explore perceptions of lameness, perceptions of roles in lameness management, and barriers to improved lameness management in these groups. Fourteen homogeneous focus groups were held in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York from April 2017 to March 2020; 5 with farmers (n = 31), 4 with hoof trimmers (n = 32), and 5 with veterinarians (n = 25). The 1-h facilitated discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and common themes identified through thematic analysis. Lameness was perceived by participants as a complex health problem and one in which the connections between pathogenesis, facilities, and management were not always well understood or easy to change. The complexity of the problem encompassed the lack of agreement on a definition of lameness, normalization to its signs, and the interconnectedness of lameness with other health and management issues. These issues appeared to contribute to resignation by participants that lameness was inevitable. Despite shared concerns about lameness among these groups, respondents reported a lack of communication, especially between hoof trimmers and veterinarians. Participants also voiced a desire to work together more productively, with hoof trimmers and veterinarians valuing the ability to deliver a consistent message to farmers. These findings suggest a need for increased efforts to facilitate collaboration between farmers, hoof trimmers, and veterinarians to improve lameness management on dairy farms.

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