£1m project to tackle dairy cow lameness

Cows in a field

Work has begun on a new £1 million research project to discover what causes lameness in dairy cows.

On any given day, lameness affects around one in three milking cows in the UK, costing the industry around £250m a year.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is funding new scientific research project led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) to generate a deep understanding of the reasons dairy cows become lame.

The multi-institutional project is being run in collaboration with the University of Liverpool and the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

The three-year project is scheduled to be completed by November 2021.

Professor George Oikonomou from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health said: “This truly collaborative approach will further our understanding of lameness in dairy cattle and can lead to novel preventive and treatment strategies.”

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC, who is heading up the project, described lameness as “one of the most serious and debilitating cow conditions our dairy farmers have to face”.

He added: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs. Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”

The project will combine expertise in farm animal breeding and genomics, animal health, veterinary medicine, biotechnology, molecular pathology, epidemiology and bioinformatics.

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