Hair loss, Lesions and Swellings

Why is it measured?

Hair loss, lesions and swellings all demonstrate some form of damage to the skin and in some cases the underlying tissues. Occasional small areas of skin damage/swelling maybe inevitable amongst a herd of cattle but areas larger than 2cm may give reason for concern.

Hairless patches indicate repeated rubbing or irritation, ectoparasite presence or previous injuries (scars). Lesions indicate skin damage and can be as a result of poor management, poor building and/or cubicle design/maintenance, damaged gates/fences or cow interactions. Swellings can be as a result of similar poor cubicle design/maintenance, feed trough/barrier design, abscesses, cysts or injection sites. The location of lesions, hair loss & swellings is important in determining the likely causes of them.

Hocks with any lesion/hair loss or swelling are strongly indicative that the lying area is not comfortable with abrasive surfaces, insufficient bedding and/or hard lying surfaces. Hocks damaged in this way cause pain/discomfort, are strongly linked to lameness, can become secondarily infected and may lead to reduced lying times. Similarly knees with swellings/hair loss/lesions are also suggestive that lying areas are not comfortable and have similar causes and associated problems. The resultant effect of a strong presence of either is one of reduced welfare, productivity and profitability.

Neck swellings/hair loss/ lesions tend to indicate either a problem with the feed barrier, feed trough or cubicle neck rails.  If feed space is not designed appropriately then cattle will repeatedly rub their necks causing damage, pain and a possible reduction in feed intake. Feed barriers and neck rails need to be placed at the correct height and create the right angle for the type of feed trough.  Where feed is fed without a trough it must be regularly pushed up in order to prevent over reaching and continual pressure on the necks.

Presence of lesions/swellings over other parts of the body may indicate that there are injurious environments (lying area, feeding place, parlour, automatic scraper), the cows are repeatedly bumping into sharp corners, low walls, barbed wire, machinery etc. or there are aggressive interactions between the cows. These lesions are painful and demonstrate on-going problems (lying/ feeding area, fencing, social structure), which can lead to reduced welfare and productivity and need further investigation.

Bulling marks may result in hairless patches/skin lesions which will still be recorded but are not considered an ongoing problem.

How to assess and score using the AssureWel measure

 4. Hair loss and Lesions                                                                                                            Individual measure

Sample:  20 cows selected at random (3 or more assessed jointly with stockperson)
Visually assess the following regions of one (randomly selected) side of the animal, from a distance not exceeding 2m (see picture):

a. Head & Neck  
b. Body (including flank, back & hindquarter)
c. Front leg
d. Rear legs (including outside of the near leg and inside of the far leg as well as the udder with teats)

 
 Scoring:      
 0 = No hair loss or lesion
No lesions or hairless patches ≥2cm diameter.
No hair is missing or any hairless/bald patch is smaller than a £1 coin (2cm diameter).
 
 
 H =  Hairless patches
 One or more hairless patches (may include scars)  ≥2cm diameter
   
 L = Lesion
One or more lesions (areas of skin damage i.e.  wound or scab) ≥ 2cm diameter.
(Score as a lesion even if accompanied by a hairless patch. Do not include scars)
   

 5. Swellings                                                                                                                         Individual measure

Sample:  20 cows selected at random (3 or more assessed jointly with stockperson)
Visually assess the following regions of one (randomly selected) side of the animal, from a distance not exceeding 2m (see picture):

a. Head & Neck  
b. Body (including flank, back & hindquarter)
c. Front leg
d. Rear legs (including outside of the near leg and inside of the far leg as well as the udder with teats)

 
 Scoring:      
 0 = No swelling 
No swelling or no swelling ≥2cm diameter (smaller than grape-sized)
   
 1S = Mild swelling
Mild swelling is such that the normal anatomy of the area is  enlarged, poorly defined or obscured.
Around the hock and the knee this will be apparent as a lack of definition of the tendons and other structures around the joint, and the hock will appear to have lost the ‘waist’ to the joint.
On other parts of the body the swelling will be 2- 5cm in diameter  e.g. a golf ball.
   
 2S =

Substantial swelling
Substantial swelling is an abnormal enlargement which is a  prominent / pronounced xtension away from the body. 
Around the hock and the knee (carpus) this will be apparent as an  obviously rounded swelling >5cm in diameter, e.g. the size of a  clementine.
On other parts of the body the swelling may be long, rather than round.

 

   
   NB: swollen hocks = a thickening of the joint such that the usual joint anatomy becomes poorly defined or obscured.

  1. Mobility
  2. Body condition
  3. Cleanliness   
  4. Hair loss, lesions 
  5. Swellings
  6. Broken tails    
  7. Response to stockperson
  8. Cows needing further care
  9. Mastitis
  10. Calf/Heifer survivability
  11. Cull and Casualty Cows