Two methods can be used for scoring lameness in dairy cattle: Gait Scoring or Stall Lameness Scoring. Please see the Quick Guide to Stall Lameness Scoring for a description of that protocol.
Gait Scoring or Locomotion Scoring
- Preferred method for detecting lameness in dairy cattle
- Use with free-stall or other loose-housing systems
- Use with tie-stall systems where cattle are routinely exercised, if practical
- Establish a suitable location: Often the easiest location is the transfer alley between the parlour and the pen (particularly after a footbath as this will slow the animals down). Criteria for choosing a location:
- Distance allows observation of cattle walking for four strides
- Surface is smooth/flat and allows long confident strides without slippage
- Avoid slatted concrete surfaces if possible
- Avoid sloped flooring (downward or upward) or alleys with steps
- Gait score sample cattle:
- If cattle have been released from tie-stalls, habituate them to walking by walking up and down a passageway in a calm manner until the cattle walk in a straight line at a steady pace.
- Observe at least four strides for each animal and record the degree of limping on the Cattle Assessment Record. The gait scoring categories are based on the Gait Scoring System referenced in Appendix F of the Code of Practice, developed by Flower and Weary (2006) (see Table 1).
- Score ‘A’ for acceptable for no limp present (equivalent to Scores of 1 and 2)
- Score ‘M’ for monitor for mild or moderate limp present (equivalent to Score 3)
- Score ‘R’ for requires corrective action for an obvious or severe limp present (equivalent to Scores of 4 and 5)
- The gait behaviours associated with limping are:
- Favouring one or more limbs
- Uneven weight bearing with weight transfer at walk: an animal free from injury should bear weight evenly over the four limbs
- Reluctance to bear weight on a limb: an animal with an injury may not place all her weight on an affected limb and may walk with an uneven, irregular, jerky or awkward step, as if favouring one leg
Table 1: Gait Scoring System for Dairy Cows (from Appendix F of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, 2009)
Taken from Alberta’s Humane Handling of Dairy Cattle – Standards for the Transportation of Cull Animals, original source: University of British Columbia Animal Welfare Program.