The cost of lameness in dairy

The aim of Bennett et al. (2014) was to investigate the value farmers place on lameness reduction by determining how much they were willing to pay to reduce lameness within their herd.

Estimated cost of lameness

Estimates relating to the cost of lameness in cattle are highly variable.

Digital dermatitis £76
Interdigital lameness £154
Sole ulcer £514
White line disease £300

Estimated costs per case (direct and indirect costs) Source: cited in Willshire and Bell (2009)

Perceived issues

65% of farmers felt they had a moderate to severe lameness problem within their herd.

27% of farmers felt that lameness was a high ranking problem within their herd.

30% of farmers indicated that a lameness project was the issue within their herd that required the most effort.

Prevalence of lameness within herds

Farmers underestimated the prevalence of lameness within their herds (mean estimate was 14%).

Records indicated an average lameness prevalence of 23% while locomotion scoring indicated a prevalence of 24%.

Farmers strongly believed that lameness causes their cattle much pain and reduces performance.

Easy to administer control measures are required. The majority of farmers felt that their current measures resulted in little inconvenience but 20% reported a moderate level of inconvenience.

Willingness to pay

An average of £85 per cow for every cow in the herd, or £411 per lame cow, was the amount that farmers were willing to spend to ensure the zero prevalence of lameness.

Farmers will spend an average of £27 per cow for every cow in the herd, or £154 per lame cow, to avoid the inconvenience of lameness control measures.

Farmers were prepared to accept a 3% increase in inconvenience for every 1% reduction in lameness prevalence.

Willingness to pay reflected costs of production and control issues as well as concern for the welfare of their livestock.


Bennett, R.M., Barker, Z.E., Main, D.C.J., Whay, H.R. and Leach, K.A., 2014. Investigating the value dairy farmers place on a reduction of lameness in their herds using a willingness to pay approach. The Veterinary Journal, 199(1), pp.72-75.