Locomotion Scoring of Dairy Cattle

Wisconsin State Farmer
Early detection and prevention of lameness through good management practices including routine hoof traimming is key to getting ahead of -- and preventing -- mobility problems.

Locomotion scoring is based on the observation of cows standing and walking (gait), with special emphasis on their back posture. This system is intuitive and, therefore, easy to learn and implement. Use of locomotion scoring is effective for early detection of claw (hoof) disorders, monitoring prevalence of lameness, comparing the incidence and severity of lameness between herds and identifying individual cows for functional claw (hoof) trimming.

Animal observations should be made on a flat surface that provides good footing for cows. Cows scoring 2 or 3 should be examined and trimmed to prevent more serious problems. Trimming should be done by a competent trimmer with the goal of returning the claws to functional weight bearing and conformation.

Locomotion Score 1

SCORE 1 - Normal: Stands and walks normally with a level back. Makes long confident

Locomotion Score 2

SCORE 2 - Mildly Lame: Stands with flat back, but arches
when walks. Gait is slightly

Locomotion Score 3

SCORE 3 - Moderately Lame: Stands and walks with an arched back and short strides with one or more legs. Slight sinking of dew-claws in limb opposite to the affected limb may be evident.

Locomotion Score 4

SCORE 4 - Lame: Arched back standing and walking. Favoring one or more limbs but can still bear some
weight on them. Sinking of the dew-claws is evident in the limb opposite to the affected limb.

Locomotion Score 5

SCORE 5 - Severely lame: Pronounced arching of back.
Reluctant to move, with almost complete weight transfer off the affected limb.

* Adapted from Sprecher, D.J.; Hostetler, D.E.; Kaneene, J.B. 1997. Theriogenology 47:1178-1187 and contribution from Cook, N.B., University of Wisconsin.