October 2, 2003



US Lame Cows Detected Early


U.S. cows are feeling the ache in their legs as they walk back and forth from the milking palour, to keep local dairy stocks from declining.


Now, it seems that one in five cows in the U.S has a condition called lameness that is costing the agricultural industry more than a half-billion dollars annually, whilst leaving animals unable to stand or product milk.


A Wisconsin company has plans to start selling the Reaction Force Detection System, an invention by experts at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country, in the next few months. This device is slated to detect early any signs of lameness in cows, thus preventing overt falls in milk productions or revenue for farmers whose cows succumb under weak knees.


Data on where and how hard the cow steps are fed to a computer that uses a software to determine if the animal is standing more on a particular leg. Identification tags tell the computer which cow is walking, with a numerical score from one to five for the condition of each leg. A score of one and two denote signs of lameness.

Farmers or veterinarians have all along detected lameness simply examining the anima's feet.


Lameness is very prevalent among cattle, after bacteria and reproductive troubles, running costs to the industry at an estimated tune of US$570 million a year in lost productivity and medical expenses. Treatment per case generally runs the medical bill between US$300 and US$400.


This new device then would seem like a godsend, if not for its prohibitive costs. Many of Maryland's approximately 900 dairy farms, with a total of 80,000 cows, are likely too small to afford it.


"It would be a helpful device, but likely for a very large herd, 500 or bigger," said one farmer of the new machine. "As a farmer, I'd like to think I know when a cow isn't feeling right. But it would be helpful to have an early indicator."
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