On Track - Lameness Guidebook
Lameness is an animal welfare issue
Lameness is recognised as one of the major animal welfare issues in pasture-based dairy production systems.
Lameness is the disruption to normal gait caused by pain due to injury or disease.
Pain can be defined as "an unpleasant sensation or emotional experience, associated with actual or potential tissue damage". While pain has a protective role (it warns the animal of potential or actual tissue damage, and normally causes a change in behaviour to prevent further damage), chronic or prolonged pain associated with lameness is clearly a welfare issue for the animal.
Freedom from pain, injury and disease is one of the so-called "Five Freedoms". People involved in the care of dairy cattle have a moral obligation to provide this freedom and so protect the welfare of their animals.
The animal is entirely dependent on humans for its care and survival. It is not able to identify the cause of lameness, treat itself, provide pain relief, or adjust its environment so that injury does not recur! Only the owner, the owner's representatives, and animal health professionals can do so.
The Australian dairy industry is based on, and entirely depends on dairy cattle. Prompt and effective treatment of lameness, and taking action to prevent lameness promotes both the production and welfare of dairy cattle. It is the least we can do for them!