Best Practice: Develop a Lameness Detection Protocol

1. Designate a specific person(s) to be responsible for finding lame cows.

When everyone is responsible for detecting lame cows, the task can be pushed aside. People tend to assume that someone else will take care of the assignment, leaving the lame cows unidentified.

2. Develop a routine schedule for finding lame cows.

Regular monitoring of the herd for lameness allows for early detection and early intervention. Weekly or biweekly identification and treatment prevents the number of lameness cases in the herd from building up. The number of cases in the herd can be tracked from week to week to identify trends or trigger further investigation if needed.


3. Develop a communication mechanism for reporting lame cows to designated person and hoof trimmer.

While there should be a specified person(s) on the dairy responsible for identifying lame cows, it is important to have a reliable method for other staff to report lame cows they notice during the work day. There are countless ways for this reporting procedure to be implemented, but all should include identification of the cow, date, and name of person reporting. The key is to make the reporting reliable and convenient for non-designated lameness staff


  •      ♦ a designated white board at front of parlor
  •      ♦ clipboard by holding area entry
  •      ♦ mailbox with paper slips

Additional Resources for Lameness Detection

Locomotion scoring of the entire herd is recommended to identify lame cows. A variety of scoring systems are available to guide you. At the farm level, the most important goal is to identify which cows need further attention. For this purpose, a simplified lame yes/no system is typically adequate.


Below are a variety of resources that can be used to train staff in lame cow identification.




3-Part Scoring Systems:

4-Part Scoring System: DairyCo

4-Part Scoring System: DairyNZ

5-Point Scoring System:

Zinpro Locomotion Scoring


UBC Gait Scoring Guide

Zinpro Locomotion Scoring Guide

WSU Lame Cow Detection Poster

WSU Lame Cow Detection Poster - Spanish


Comparison of scoring systems (UW)

WSU Locomotion Scoring Training Presentation & Quiz

Best Practice: Develop a Lameness Record Keeping System

Identify and track the underlying causes for lameness in your herd.

Lameness can be caused by a variety of different conditions, and understanding the common causes of lameness in your herd can guide your treatment and prevention plans.  Maintaining records of lame cow and preventive trims will allow you to track trends over time.


A variety of mechanisms can be used to record lame cows and the lesions associated with them. Key pieces of information that should be recorded for every lame and hoof trimmed cow are:

  • Date
  • Cow identification
  • Lameness cause diagnosis
  • Treatment applied
  • Drug withdrawals if applicable


Best Practice: Lameness Prevention

2. Develop a consistent routine for digital dermatitis prevention.

After addressing environmental factors to improve hygiene, a good footbath or spraying program is critical to minimize the incidence of digital dermatitis.


3. Manage the cow and her environment to minimize impact of metabolic problems and standing time on lameness.

Lameness is a complex disease and there is no simple fix for any lameness problem.  Both cow factors such as body condition score and environmental factors such as increases in standing time can impact lameness.


Best Practice: Develop a Comprehensive Employee Training Program on Lameness

(download Training Best Practice)
Ensure all employees are trained on lameness detection, prevention, and treatment protocols

All employees should be trained to identify and report lame cows they encounter during the course of their duties.  Other specific duties should be trained according to job description.


Additional Resources for Lameness Employee Training

For more resource on training staff to detect lameness, see Lameness Detection. For more resources on training staff in hoof trimming, see Lameness Prevention.