Spring and early summer showers certainly mean greater forage growth, but it also brings with it a greater propensity for lameness in cattle.

Though lameness can be caused by a variety of limb problems, about 90 percent of the cases are caused by some affliction with the foot, according to David Van Metre, veterinarian and assistant professor at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Injuries to the sole of the hooves, infections of the skin surrounding the hooves, and pain caused by overgrown or misshapen hooves are probably the most common underlying causes of foot problems," says Dr. Van Metre.

While all lame animals favor one foot by limping, different disorders have different symptoms and causes. For example footrot occurs when bacteria found in soil or manure invades the skin between the digits of a cow's foot. Cattle with footrot have swollen feet with inflamed red or rough skin between the two hooves on a foot. Toe abscesses initially only affect the hooves themselves, so the feet don't swell. According to Dr. Van Metre, detecting a crack in the sole of the foot or finding a foul smelling fluid when the abscess is opened with a hoof knife are signs of toe abscesses.

Common treatments for lameness are antibiotics for infections like footrot, pain relievers, trimming overgrown feet and in severe cases surgery. "Not all lameness is due to footrot, so antibiotics are not the cure-all for lameness," says Dr. Van Metre.

While lameness is inevitable, producers can reduce the cases by selecting animals with proper musculoskeletal conformation, trimming hooves regularly, ensuring correct nutrition, and maintaining a dry and relatively clean environment.