Locomotion Scoring as a Management Tool

Locomotion Scoring System

(Sprecher, et. al, Theriogenology 47:1179, 1997)

Lameness Score Clinical Description Assessment
1 Normal The cow stands and walks with a level-back posture. Her gait is normal. 
2 Mildly lame The cows stands with a level-back posture but develops an arched-back posture when walking. Her gait remains normal. 
3 Moderately lame An arched-back posture is evident both while standing and walking. Her gait is affected and is best described as short-striding with one or more limbs
4 Lame An arched-back posture is always evident and gait is best described as one deliberate step at a time. The cow favors one or more limbs/feet. 
5 Severely lame The cow additionally demonstrates an inability or extreme reluctance to bear weight on one or more of her limbs/feet. 

Using locomotion scoring as a management tool:

  • Goal—no more than 15% of each animal management group (lactating cows, dry cows, heifers) locomotion score >2.
  • Be sure to have a regular hoof trimming program.
  • One person on the farm should be designated as the point person for the lameness program. This person should be trained to identify lame cows and have the ability to make prompt decisions regarding these animals. It is recommended that all cows be scored weekly; record any animal with a score greater than 1.
  • All farm personnel working with the cattle should be trained to recognize early signs of lameness on a daily basis.
  • Use the definitions above and the Zinpro locomotion scoring chart to determine the locomotion scores of the cows. Be certain to score cows in an area where they can walk in a straight line at a comfortable pace on a flat surface with good footing.
  • Those cows that score a 3, 4 or 5 need prompt treatment according to farm protocols. Inspect the foot to determine the problem and appropriate treatment. Contact the veterinarian as needed.
  • Cows with a locomotion score of 2 should be noted. Determine if there are other health reasons that the cow might be walking with an arched back. If not, examine the feet. If nothing obvious is found monitor the cow several times a day for the next week.