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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Influence of grazing management on claw disorders in Swedish freestall dairies with mandatory grazing

Bergsten, Christer; Carlsson, Jonas; Jansson Mörk, Marie


Our hypothesis was that grazing time, the number of days (duration) and number of hours per day, affected claw health. From Swedish freestall herds that fulfilled our criteria of claw-trimming routines, 201 herds were randomly selected for a telephone interview regarding grazing management. Herd data were retrieved from the Swedish Official Milk Recording Scheme. Claw disorders to be analyzed were recorded at maintenance claw trimming before and after the grazing period and included mild and severe dermatitis, severe heel-horn erosion, and sole ulcer (including severe sole hemorrhage). Any remark included one or more of these recorded disorders. The odds for having a recorded claw disorder at the autumn trimming in relation to grazing management, as well as to herd- and cow-related parameters, was tested using multilevel logistic regression models. The final statistical analysis included 17,600 cows in 174 herds, which were distributed from the south to the north of Sweden with decreasing length of mandatory grazing period because of climate. Grazing duration was statistically associated with the risk of sole ulcer, but it was not linear. However, grazing duration was not statistically associated with the odds for any remark, dermatitis, or heel-horn erosion. The odds for dermatitis were lower with access to pasture for 24 h compared with either day or night access. Otherwise, the number of hours that the animals had access to grazing per day was not significantly associated with any of the other analyzed claw disorders. Higher pasture stocking density (number of cow hours per day per hectare) was associated with a higher odds for dermatitis and sole ulcer. For all recorded claw disorders, the highest odds for having a disorder after the grazing period were consistently when the cow had the same claw disorder before the release to pasture. The positive effects of grazing on claw health were less than expected, and the previous known effects of breed, days in milk, parity, production system, housing environment, and management were verified for most claw disorders. If cows in today's loose housing systems have a more restrictive grazing than cows in tie-stall herds previously experienced, one cannot expect as strong an effect even if grazing is mandatory in all Swedish dairy cattle. Despite some positive effects of grazing, good stall environment and management during the housing period seem to be more important to obtain good claw health.


dairy cow; pasture; claw disorder; lameness

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2015, Volume: 98, number: 9, pages: 6151-6162

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      Animal and Dairy Science

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