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Locomotion Scoring in Cattle


Paul R. Greenough

, FRCVS, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Last full review/revision Sep 2015 | Content last modified Sep 2015

Locomotion scoring is a useful tool as part of a routine herd health evaluation or in a detailed herd lameness investigation.

Most farmers will detect between only 25% and 40% of truly lame cows; this underestimation of lameness prevalence means that the economic consequences of lame cows are less obvious to farmers than those caused by mastitis (loss of milk) and fertility problems. Cows in the early stages of sole ulcer, white line disease, and toe necrosis syndrome show only slight signs of lameness; if these lesions can be identified in their early stages, they can be treated and preventive measures instituted.

Locomotion scoring identifies slightly lame cows as well as those more obviously lame. Therefore, use of locomotion scoring can demonstrate the real extent of the problem.

Herd assessments should be done when the cows are walking on level, unobstructed walkways that give the observer a clear view. Locomotion scoring is frequently performed when the cows are leaving the milking parlor. In addition, milkers should note any cow standing in the milking parlor with an arched back, because it is highly probable that such cows are lame. Any cow lying down for an abnormally long time (>70–80 min/bout) should also be noted for special attention.

Locomotion scoring is a 5-point system based on both gait and posture: 1) Normal: The cow is not lame; the back is flat. 2) Mildly lame: The back is slightly arched when walking. 3) Moderately lame: The back is arched when both standing and walking. The cow walks with short strides in one or more legs. 4) Lame: The lame cow can still bear some weight on the affected foot. 5) Severely lame: The back is arched; the cow refuses to bear weight on the affected foot and remains recumbent. (Some observers use a 4-point scoring system, referring to normal as zero.) The repeatability of locomotion scoring is acceptably high among experienced observers.

As the locomotion score increases, milk yield decreases; however, the composition of the milk (fat, protein) remains unaffected.

Lameness in Cattle
Overview of Lameness in Cattle
Physical Examination of a Lame Cow
Locomotion Scoring in Cattle
Computerized Recording of Digital Lesions in Cattle
Distal Digital Anesthesia for Diagnostic and Surgical Procedures in Cattle
Radiography in Cattle
Arthrocentesis and Arthroscopy in Cattle
Risk Factors Involved in Herd Lameness of Cattle
Footbaths of Cattle
Functional Claw Trimming of Cattle
Prevalent Lameness Disorders in Intensively Managed Herds of Cattle
Digital Dermatitis in Cattle
Pododermatitis Circumscripta in Cattle
White Line Disease in Cattle
Toe Necrosis Syndrome in Cattle
Sole Hemorrhage in Cattle
Thin Sole in Cattle
Heel Erosion in Cattle
Other Disorders of the Interdigital Space in Cattle
Interdigital Dermatitis in Cattle
Interdigital Phlegmon in Cattle
Interdigital Hyperplasia in Cattle
Disorders of the Horn Capsule and Corium in Cattle
Laminitis in Cattle
Double Sole in Cattle
Foreign Body in Sole of Cattle
Vertical Fissures in Cattle
Horizontal Fissures in Cattle
Corkscrew Claw in Cattle
Slipper Foot in Cattle
Disorders of the Bones and Joints in Cattle
Ankylosing Spondylosis in Cattle
Degenerative Arthropathy in Cattle
Coxofemoral Luxation in Cattle
Patellar Luxation in Cattle
Fetlock Dislocation in Cattle
Hip Dysplasia in Cattle
Fractures in Cattle
Septic Arthritis of the Distal Interphalangeal Joint in Cattle
Serous Tarsitis in Cattle
Neurologic Disorders Associated with Lameness or Gait Abnormalities in Cattle
Suprascapular Paralysis in Cattle
Radial Paralysis in Cattle
Ischiatic Paralysis in Cattle
Obturator Paralysis in Cattle
Femoral Paralysis in Cattle
Peroneal Paralysis in Cattle
Tibial Paralysis in Cattle
Spastic Syndrome in Cattle
Spastic Paresis in Cattle
Soft-tissue Disorders Causing Lameness in Cattle
Carpal Hygroma in Cattle
Rupture of the Gastrocnemius Muscle in Cattle
Rupture of the Peroneus Tertius Muscle in Cattle
Tarsal Cellulitis in Cattle
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Musculoskeletal Disorders in Large Animals
A seven-year-old Quarter horse gelding presents with a 1-week history of mild lameness. During the examination, the horse raises his head as he places weight on his left forelimb and drops it when placing weight on the right forelimb. Which limb is most likely affected in this horse?
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