Prevalence and characterisation of, and producers' attitudes towards, hock lesions in UK dairy cattle

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Abstract

The objectives of this paper were to characterise lesions found at the hock and to establish their prevalence across a large sample of dairy cows in the UK. In addition, the study aimed to examine farmers' perceptions of these lesions. Seventy-seven farms were visited; both hocks on a random sample of approximately 50 cows were scored on a categorical scale for hair loss, ulceration and swelling. In addition, the size and location of lesions were marked on a hock map. A questionnaire designed to explore attitudes towards lesions was conducted with the owner. Hair loss and ulceration were seen at five locations. Hair loss was identified on 5,619 of 6,896 hocks (mild: 43.7 per cent; moderate: 25.1 per cent; severe: 12.6 per cent) and 1,137 of 6,896 hocks had areas of ulceration (mild: 8.6 per cent; moderate: 5.8 per cent; severe: 2.1 per cent). The majority of lesions were small; however, a small proportion had extensive areas of hair loss (maximum size 113.3 cm2) and ulceration (maximum size 95.5 cm2). Moderate swelling was recorded on 20 per cent of hocks, and 2.0 per cent had severe swelling. Interview results suggested that more than 90 per cent of participants were aware of hock lesions and a third had sought treatment for them; most felt that lesions had at least some impact on productivity and welfare.

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