When producers identify lame animals in the herd, it is helpful to use common terms to describe the observed signs of lameness when consulting with a veterinarian.
"This common language can be a locomotion scoring system, an objective measure indicating the severity of an animal's lameness. Monitoring a herd's locomotion score can also provide a picture of the prevalence of lameness," said Heidi Carroll, SDSU Livestock Stewardship Extension Associate.
Carroll explained that locomotion scoring uses head bobs and stride length to detect lameness at a walk. See clearly defined locomotion scoring using images and text.
Depending on their intended goal producers can use locomotion scoring in three ways, Carroll explained.
First, it can be used to identify individual animals that require hoof trimming or treatment. "When using locomotion scoring to identify lame animals, producers can easily incorporate the score into existing treatment records," Carroll said. "Scoring the treated animal for several days following treatment is a nice way of tracking the success of treatment and management practices implemented."
Second, it can be used to determine the prevalence of lameness within the herd by observing all animals at a regular interval – monthly, semi-monthly, seasonally. "This can be achieved by having one person observe each animal as it walks by on a flat surface and simply tally the number of animals that fit under each locomotion score," she said. "Knowing what percentage of a herd is two or three can help make management decisions about environmental hygiene and minimize infectious agents or culling."
Third, locomotion scoring can be used to evaluate the progress and success of a newly implemented management practice or treatment protocol. "This is accomplished by recording the current prevalence of lameness before the change and then observing cattle at regular intervals (weekly or monthly) following the newly implemented practice, such as a new mineral or supplementation program, pen maintenance changes or treating a hairy heel wart outbreak," Carroll said.
Locomotion scoring gives producers the ability to identify lame animals, document improvements and adjust management practices as necessary to optimize animal well-being and minimize economic losses due to lameness.