Keeping specific lameness data on feedyards can give you an indication of infectious processes like foot rot that may be due to pen-maintenance problems and/or toe abscesses or other injuries due to improper cattle-handling procedures and problems with facility design.

Tom Edwards, a veterinarian, has been keeping specific lameness data on feedlots for years that he can compare to other operations and across time. “I try to find something that sticks out,” he says. “If I see the same problems in five or six other feedlots in my data set, I want to find out what is going on.”

Dr. Edwards has a system of specific diagnostic codes his feedlot cowboys use to define the lameness they see. It is set up to look at the major joints and swelling versus an infectious problem in the foot versus a toe abscess injury. “The more specific we get, the more accurate we become in determining whether the treatments we’re using are responsive, and what antibiotics are working for each situation, etc.”

The four lameness assessment codes Dr. Edwards uses for his database are:

1. Foot rot

2. Lameness involving major joint swellings, knees, stifle, hock

3. Injuries including cuts, abrasions, fractures, toe abscesses

4. Downers that are overcenter, stuck in the mud or under a fence.

Veterinarian Brent Meyer also has case definitions and treatment protocols for each lameness event. He uses these diagnostic and treatment codes to monitor the incidence and treatment response for each lameness problem. “Monitoring the incidence and response is the only way proper management decisions can be made. It’s true that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

Good records are also important to monitor treated cattle for withdrawal periods. Dr. Meyer has installed a three-treatment rotation per episode concerning health conditions in cattle. “If the animal was pulled in a timely fashion and didn’t respond after three treatments, then that animal will be placed in the time pen to avoid over-treatment.”