German farmers' awareness of lameness in their dairy herds
Lameness is one of the most challenging problems in the dairy industry. Control is impeded because farmers often underestimate the number of lame cows. The objectives of this study were to assess German farmers' awareness of lameness in their herds and to determine the associations between farmers' awareness and their management practices, farm characteristics as well as with farmers' education, personality traits and attitudes. As a part of a large cross-sectional study, veterinarians visited farms in three structurally different regions of Germany: north (n = 253), east (n = 252), and south (n = 260). The cows (n = 84,998) were scored for locomotion and farmers were asked to estimate the number of cows that were lame or did not walk soundly. The ratio of farmers' estimated prevalence and the veterinarians' observed prevalence (Farmer's Detection Index; FDI) was calculated. The median lameness prevalence assessed by the veterinarians was 23.1, 39.1, and 23.2%, and the median prevalence of lame cows estimated by the farmers was 9.5, 9.5, and 7.1% in the north, east, and south, respectively. On average, farmers were conscious of only 45.3% (north), 24.0% (east), and 30.0% (south) of their lame cows. Farmers managing their herds according to organic principles had a higher FDI than farmers who managed their herds conventionally. Surprisingly, no significant associations between FDI and factors concerning claw health management could be detected. Therefore, increased awareness did not seem to be necessarily linked to improved management. Moreover, the FDI was not significantly associated with farmers' education or herd size. In the south, more extraverted farmers had a lower FDI. Those farmers who totally agreed with the statement, “I am satisfied with my herd's health,” had a lower FDI than farmers who disagreed or were undecided. Moreover, farmers who disagreed or were undecided with the statement, “It affects me to see a cow in pain” had a higher FDI than those farmers who agreed to the statement. The results indicate that poor awareness of lameness was linked to the farmers' attitude and personality. Therefore, new approaches concerning the consultation regarding lameness control, such as the use of Motivational Interviewing, might be useful in the future.