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Joint inflammation and lying injuries (decubitus) with hair loss (alopecia) and skin changes mostly occur on hock joints. Certain risk factors are conducive to the formation of these diseases, ultimately resulting from excessive pressure on the skin.
While lying, the cow’s skin on the lower part of her body is exposed to considerable pressure from its own body weight. This significantly disturbs the blood circulation to the skin zones between hard bone tissue and the hard lying surface. Wherever that softness can distribute the pressure during lying to a larger bearing area, the skin tissue is more adequately supplied with nutrients.
The softness and elasticity of subcutaneous adipose tissue and especially the muscle tissue maintain the blood supply to the skin, despite temporary pressure on the body surface. If the pressure is too high or lasts too long, damage to the roots of the hair or to the skin can be expected. Skin agnosiae are most likely to occur on those spots where only skin covers the bone tissue, e.g. on the hock joint.
Hock joint on hard lying surface: the weight burden on one spot
Hock joint on soft lying surface: the weight is distributed to a larger surface
The following risk factors lead to predamaging the skin and facilitate joint inflammation and injuries from lying:
Establish lying areas, where the pressure from body weight is dispersed over a surface which is as large as possible.
Provide dry lying areas with soft, skin-friendly bedding material, which absorbs moisture.
Provide clean lying areas
Optimal feeding (ruminant appropriate)
→ best lying comfort for the natural lying behaviour of the cow (about 12 hours per day in separate phases, each lasting from about 60 to 90 minutes).
Putting bedding material on mattresses or similar coverings prevents the formation of tarsal lesions.
Source: Research results by Mowbray et al, 2003, University of British Columbia, Canada