Assessing economic consequences of foot disorders in dairy cattle using a dynamic stochastic simulation model

J Dairy Sci. 2010 Jun;93(6):2419-32. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2721.


Foot disorders are an important health problem in dairy cattle, in terms of economics and animal welfare. The incidence, severity, and duration of foot disorders account for their importance. Prevalence of both subclinical and clinical foot disorders is high. More insight into the economic consequences could increase awareness among dairy farmers and could be an incentive for them to take action on this problem of animal welfare. The objective of this research was to estimate the economic consequences of different types of foot disorders, both clinical and subclinical. A dynamic stochastic Monte Carlo simulation model was used, taking into account the different types of foot disorders. The economic consequences of the foot disorders modeled were costs due to milk production losses, culling, prolonged calving interval, labor of the dairy farmer and the foot trimmer, visits of a veterinarian, treatment, and discarded milk. Under the milk quota system in The Netherlands, costs due to foot disorders for a default farm with 65 cows averaged $4,899 per year (ranging from $3,217 to $7,001), an annual loss of $75 per cow. This calculation implies that the costs due to foot disorders are more substantial than farmers might think. The costs of subclinical foot disorders account for 32% of all costs due to foot disorders. The costs due to foot disorders that are present without treatment or detection by the farmer are considerable. This finding implies that farmers might underestimate the benefits of taking action earlier and more thoroughly. A clinical foot disorder costs, on average, $95, and a subclinical foot disorder $18. The highest costs classified by foot disorder were those due to digital dermatitis, which has a high incidence and relatively high clinical prevalence. The highest costs classified by cost factor were those due to milk production losses and culling. Sensitivity analysis showed that variables regarding milk production were important for economic costs due to foot disorders. Furthermore, the probability of getting a foot disorder and probability of cure were important for estimating the costs due to foot disorders. Farmer awareness concerning dairy cow foot health and taking action more thoroughly, therefore, could reduce the economic consequences and improve welfare simultaneously.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare / economics
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / economics*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Dairying / economics
  • Foot Diseases / economics
  • Foot Diseases / veterinary*
  • Models, Economic
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Stochastic Processes