Erin Wynands

Erin Wynands, University of Minnesota Ph.D. student.

WELCH, Minn. – At the Minnesota Milk Producers Dairy Conference and Expo, producers from across the state took time to discuss lameness in dairy cattle. The focus group was led by Erin Wynands, a University of Minnesota Ph.D. student.

“My research interest is in dairy cattle lameness,” said Wynands during a recent phone interview, just before the Expo and focus group occurred. “I am doing a series of focus groups as part of my graduate research work.”

Wynands’ plan is to have meetings with dairy producers, hoof trimmers and veterinarians at different locations across the state. She is gathering information about how each group views lameness, discussing the potential barriers in lameness management, and seeing how each group views their role in dealing with lameness.

“I am interested in exploring how they view lameness, what barriers they may face in lameness management, how they like to find new information about lameness, as well as their relationships with each other,” she said.

The plan is to have separate focus groups for producers, veterinarians and hoof trimmers as each stakeholder group has unique responsibilities in lameness management.

The meeting at the Expo was the first producer focus group. Wynands has already completed two hoof trimmer groups and two veterinarian groups.

“We are hoping to do four of each type, so twelve total to try and capture a diversity of opinion and a wide range of ideas,” she said.

While there are many well known and researched causes of lameness in dairy cattle, this research is more focused on the management of lameness. In other words, how farmers, veterinarians and hoof trimmers work together in preventing and treating lameness.

“There are infectious and non-infectious causes of lameness,” she said. “For the infectious side, foot bathing is important, hygiene at the farm, and treating infections legions when they happen.”

Non-infectious lesions are caused by concussive forces on the foot. Management for those cases involve the type of bedding and housing, having comfortable areas for the cattle to lay down, and reducing standing time. It also includes taking steps to prevent cattle from slipping while they are moving around the farm.

Another part of the research is to determine where dairy professionals go when looking for information regarding lameness. Wynands hopes to explore the best way to provide information.

The goal of this research is to better understand lameness through the eyes of the participants. With this information, Wynands hopes to learn how to better support producers, veterinarians, and hoof trimmers as they deal with this complicated disease. Wynands also hopes this research could potentially lead to a lameness extension program.

The extension program would help deliver lameness information to producers and industry professionals. The program would also help support farms as they make changes to improve lameness management.

“There are lots of people on a dairy who care about lameness and they don't necessarily get to meet and work together,” she said. “We would really like to bring those people together and develop lameness management teams at the farm.”

Every farm is different. The research is showing that in some cases the three groups work well together developing lameness strategies. In other cases, they may not be on the same page.

“If it is not something that they have really talked about, then there can be disconnects there,” said Wynands. “Depending on how they view their own role and the other people's roles there may be mismatches.”

Individuals interested in being a part of Wynands research and focus groups can reach out directly to her at ewynands@umn.edu to learn about the upcoming meetings and groups.