Behaviour, welfare and health

Measures to improve dairy cow foot health: consequences for farmer income and dairy cow welfare

M. R. N. Bruijnisa1 c1, H. Hogeveena2a3 and E. N. Stassena1

a1 Department of Animal Sciences, Wageningen Institute for Animal Sciences, Animal and Society, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands

a2 Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands

a3 Business Economics Group, Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, PO Box 8130, 6700 EW Wageningen, The Netherlands


Dairy farming in western countries with cubicle housing is an efficient way of dairy farming. Though, a disadvantage is the high prevalence and incidence of foot disorders (clinical and subclinical), which cause high economic losses and also seriously impair the welfare of dairy cattle. To point out the importance of reducing the amount and severity of foot disorders, advice to farmers should include information about the scale of the problem and the consequences in terms of economics and animal welfare. To provide support in making decisions on implementing intervention measures, insight into costs and benefits of different measures should be available. The objective of this study, therefore, is to provide more insight into the costs and benefits, for farmer and cow, of different intervention measures to improve dairy cow foot health. Intervention measures were modeled when they were applicable on a dairy farm with cubicle housing and when sufficient information was available in literature. Net costs were calculated as the difference between the costs of the measure and the economic benefits resulting from the measure. Welfare benefits were calculated as well. Cost-effective measures are: improving lying surface (mattress and bedding, €7 and €1/cow per year, respectively), reducing stocking density (break even) and performing additional foot trimming (€1/cow per year). Simultaneously, these measures have a relative high welfare benefit. Labor costs play an important role in the cost-effectiveness of labor-intensive measures. More insight into cost-effectiveness and welfare benefits of intervention measures can help to prioritize when choosing between intervention measures.

(Received November 30 2011)

(Accepted April 15 2012)

(Online publication July 10 2012)


  • dairy cow welfare;
  • foot disorder;
  • modeling;
  • intervention measure;
  • costs


c1 E-mail: