Beef feedlot operations are faced with daily tasks of managing feed and cattle inventory, animal health, labor, operational activities and marketing of the resident cattle in the yards. No less important are details to manage the feedlot environment and facilities. All of this is made more tedious and challenging by the forces of Mother Nature. In the northern and central plains, the long winter and the recent spring storms have crippled one area of management that may have created some cattle issues. That area is feedlot pen maintenance and cattle comfort. Many open-lot cattle feeding sites have been burdened by mud and water accumulations - making regular pen cleaning difficult. Closed, confined feeding facilities may be hampered in removing stockpiled manure and or disposal of pit-stored waste. In the face of muddy, soggy feedlot pens, cattle discomfort and lameness are potential problems that producers may be facing. The end result of these problems may be loss of performance and negative closeouts.
Lameness is often considered a disease. However, lameness is really only a descriptor for pain and discomfort of the animal during movement. Lameness can be attributed to many disease conditions and may be difficult in some cases to correctly diagnose. The most common and frequently reported causes of lameness in feedlot cattle include:
- Foot Rot (Infectious Pododermatitis)
- Toe Abscess or Subsolar Abscess
- Injuries to feet, legs or back
- Tendinitis/Synovitis due to Mycoplasma bovis
- Histophilus somnus joint infection
An emerging disease causing lameness in feedlot cattle is the infectious disease labeled, “Hairy Heel Warts” or Digital Dermatitis. This condition is now being recognized more in closed, confinement feeding structures. In regards to laminitis, the winter and spring storms made bunk management and maintaining consistent feed intakes difficult and increased the risk of acidosis. Both clinical acidosis (founder) and subclinical acidosis are predisposing factors for laminitis and “sore footed cattle”. Some individuals will experience excessive hoof overgrowth and progressive lameness. The total effects of acidosis and laminitis will markedly reduce cattle performance and end-value.
There are many references available regarding lameness diseases which you are directed to for detailed information, two of which are listed at the conclusion of the article. Discussion with your animal health consultant and veterinarian regarding details of these conditions will provide specific guidance and management recommendations.