Perception of lameness management, education, and effects on animal welfare of feedlot cattle by consulting nutritionists, veterinarians, and feedlot managers

Author: S.P. Terrell, DVM, MS; D.U. Thomson, PhD, DVM; C.D. Reinhardt, BS, MS, PhD; M.D. Apley, DVM, PhD; C.K. Larson; K.R. Stackhouse-Lawson

Abstract: Consulting nutritionists (n=37), consulting veterinarians (n=47), and feedlot managers (n=63) from the United States and Canada participated in a feedlot cattle lameness survey. The majority of participants either manage or consult open-air, dirt floor feedyard facilities (98.4%). Participants were directed to an online survey to answer questions pertaining to the incidence, management, perception, and economics of feedlot lameness. The median response of estimated lameness incidence in the feedyard was 2%, with a mode of 1% and a mean of 3.8%. Of survey participants, 81% estimated the contribution of lameness to total feedyard mortality as less than 10%. Similarly, 64% of participants estimated the contribution of lameness to the overall chronic and realizer loss in the feedyard to be less 10%. Forty-one percent of participants believed that 50% or more of cattle suffering from lameness require treatment. Participants indicated that footrot (42% of participants), injury (35% of participants), and toe abscesses (10% of participants) were the most common causes of lameness. The major contributing factors associated with non-infectious causes of lameness, such as upper limb injuries, toe abscesses or ulcers, and lacerations include cattle handling before and after arrival, pen surface and condition, and cattle temperament. Important contributing factors for infectious causes of lameness, such as footrot, were identified as pen surface and condition, cattle handling prior to arrival, and weather. Lameness was considered an animal welfare concern by 58% of participants. This survey provides insight into the perception of lameness and potential management factors which contribute to lameness through the perspective of multiple participants in feedlot cattle production systems.