Does access to pasture affect claw condition and health in dairy cows?
The aim of this study was to examine effects of pasturing in dairy cows on claw condition (claw length, hardness) and on the prevalence of claw diseases. At claw trimming, a total of 240 Holstein-Friesian or Red-Holstein cows from 20 German farms were examined twice, at the end of the pasture and barn season. Each individual claw was trimmed at both assessments. Farms were classified based on animals’ pasture access during pasture season into: group 1 (G1) >10 hours pasture access per day, group 2 (G2) 6–10 hours, group 3 (G3) <6 hours and group 4 (G4) without pasture access. Greater values for hardness were associated with lower scores (=prevalence×severity level) of sole ulcers, white line disease, sole haemorrhage, heel horn erosion and interdigital hyperplasia. In pasture groups, heel horn erosion showed lower frequencies in summer compared with winter, while it was vice versa in G4. In G1 and G3, lower frequencies of white line disease were found in summer compared with winter. Overall, pasture access had positive effects in particular for claw diseases that are related to moist environments. Nevertheless, appropriate free-stall design and claw trimming routine might have a greater influence.