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Lameness: the importance of Biotin in dairy cow rations

Lameness is regarded as the 3rd most common reason for cows to be culled on UK dairy farms after mastitis and fertility issues. On average, the cost of lameness is in the region of £330/case, and there are many factors that contribute to this figure;

The initial treatment and hoof pairing

  • Reduced feed intake (due to pain and unwilling to walk to feed trough)

  • Poor fertility (lack of energy)

  • Discarded milk if treated with antibiotics

  • Vet costs and medicine

  • Culling cost

It goes without saying that regular foot trimming and picking up the feet of lame cows quickly is very important to reduce the incidence of lameness. But if you are still seeing issues with lameness in your herd, feeding Biotin could help to reduce the issue.


Reducing lameness will also reduce antibiotic usage, which is becoming an increasingly important issue.


What is Biotin?


Biotin is a water-soluble B – group vitamin or sometimes referred to as vitamin H. It is an essential nutrient for all animals as it plays an important role in the health of skin, hair and horn production.


How does Biotin effect the cow?


Biotin plays a key role in several metabolic processes synthesising glucose (precursor for milk production), fats and amino acids, most importantly for dairy cows to produce Keratin, the protein structure involved in horn (hoof) development.


How to know if my cows are deficient in Biotin?


The first signs that your cows may be deficient and need biotin added to the diet are increased dermatitis and increased soft tissue problems in cows feet but in particular a high incidence of white line lesions. Most of you have sorted out tight corners and rough floors which will increase white line lesions but if they are still a problem then Biotin may well help.


Why is Keratin so important?


A cow’s hoof is similar to our finger nail, both contain Keratin and this is needed as an internal support to give a hoof/finger nail strength. The cells of the hoof horn are bonded together, cementing the keratin structure to each other. Biotin increases the keratin production in the corium thus increasing the strength of the horn. When you visualise the cell structure of a weak formed hoof it would resemble a dry-stone wall, no cohesion, loose and no bonding between the cells. Then on the other hand, a healthy strong hoof would resemble a brick wall, strong, compact and well bonded.


Does biotin work?


There have been many trials across the world comparing groups of cows being fed no biotin and being fed 20mg/cow/day. The results show that cows being fed Biotin have a reduction in lameness, improved locomotion and a reduction in repeat lameness cases. This would suggest that cows are getting less problems and when they do get an issue they are healing and recovering more effectively.


Biotin can be added to all of our group minerals, but please give us a call to discuss the appropriate action.