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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00094

Lameness in Beef Cattle: UK farmers’ perceptions, knowledge, barriers and approaches to treatment and control

 Jay Tunstall1*, Karin Mueller2,  Dai Grove White2, Jo Oultram2 and  Helen M. Higgins2
  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Livestock Health and Welfare, Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Lameness in the beef industry has received little attention in the UK, despite the fact that it is a well-recognised problem in the dairy industry. The aims of this study were to (i) compare UK beef farmers’ estimates of lameness prevalence to that of researchers, (ii) explore beef farmers’ attitudes towards lameness and (iii) help identify farmer reported barriers to lameness control and treatment.

Beef farmers (11 finishing units and 10 suckler farms) were recruited from England and Wales. Farmers were asked to estimate their lameness prevalence, before a researcher conducted locomotion scoring using a five point scale, and a Bland Altman analysis performed. Face to face interviews were also conducted using a semi structured interview script aimed at capturing information such as current approaches and protocols as well as their views of lameness importance. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. An inductive thematic analysis was performed.

All but two farmers underestimated lameness prevalence on their farms when compared to the researcher. Farmers initially underestimated lameness prevalence compared to the researchers estimates, with a mean underestimate of 7% (95% CI 5-9%). This is an important barrier to lameness detection and treatment. Thematic analysis identified four major themes: 1. Perception of lameness prevalence, 2. Technical knowledge and skills, 3. Perception of the impact of lameness and 4. Barriers to the treatment and control of lameness.

This study highlights that some approaches to lameness treatment are likely to be causing harm, despite being done with the intention to help the animal. There were four key areas of concern identified: recognition of lameness, treatment approaches, the training provided to farmers and confusion over transport and slaughter options available to farmers. This suggests an urgent need for future work to quantify and then address the problem, and to provide evidence to justify the role of prevention and potentially start to break down barriers to control and treatment of lameness.

Keywords: Beef, Locomotion, Qualitative, Culling, Prevalence, lameness, perceptions, welfare

Received: 03 Oct 2018; Accepted: 07 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Emily Patterson-Kane, American Veterinary Medical Association, United States

Reviewed by:

Melissa M. Upjohn, Dogs trust, United Kingdom
Mieghan Bruce, Murdoch University, Australia  

Copyright: © 2019 Tunstall, Mueller, Grove White, Oultram and Higgins. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Jay Tunstall, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Neston, United Kingdom,