Michael Cafferty

Project Title: An Investigation of the Possible Adverse Effects of Vibration and Fatigue Wear on Bovine Bone.

Student Name: Michael Cafferty

Supervisor: Dr. John Hession, Dr. Leo Creedon.

Abstract:

Lameness in dairy cattle has become an animal welfare problem which is having a direct impact on the financial viability of dairy farms today. A number of studies have reported that the clinical cost per lameness case in a dairy herd can range from between $250 and $650. Reports indicate that as many as 60% of dairy cows exhibit symptoms of lameness at least once a year. As well as the financial implications, there are also animal welfare issues which need to be considered as the affected animal will suffer from obvious discomfort and in 2% of all cases will be prematurely culled. Lameness can contribute to reduced milk yields, fertility problems and is also the third most common reason for premature termination of dairy cows.

Dairy farming today has become very production intensive. In comparison to dairy farming a hundred years ago, both the animals’ size and milk yield have increased significantly, and the age of first calving has reduced considerably. Much of the research undertaken so far has focused on claw health and excessive wear on the claw from unnatural flooring surfaces (such as the surface on public roads, holding areas and in seasonal cattle housing). The aim of this research is to look at lameness from a bone structure perspective, and to investigate whether or not a number of current dairy farming practices are causing damage to bone structure or impairing bone development.

The research will investigate three concepts:

1)      The difference between walking on hard and soft surfaces with regard to induced stresses in the bone.

2)      The effect prolonged standing times have on the bone.

3)      The effect varying bone mineral density (calcium concentration) in the bone has on the ability of bone to withstand loading, the bone mineral density varying as a result of:

  1. Large milk yields.
  2. Early first calving age.

This research may help determine whether or not these factors are having a statistically significant influence on the incidences of lameness in dairy cattle.

Publications/Conferences Attended:

28th January 2011 – The Seventeenth Annual Conference of the Section of Bioengineering of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.