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Benchmarking is an assessment process that compares an individual entity (farm) to their peer group and the "best in class" in order to identify differences between the respective units, identify any weaknesses and improve existing processes. Benchmarking is already used to evaluate performance differences in cattle herd management and dairy cattle welfare.

In D4Dairy, a benchmarking system for lameness and claw health in Austrian dairy cows has now also been developed. The consideration of claw health at herd and animal level is of great interest for long-term breeding improvement. In addition, comparing claw health on one's own farm with farms with similar performance levels, similar cow numbers, and the same breed allows analysis of potential improvements for one's own farm.

A comprehensive overview on the subject of claw health is also provided by the online downloadable 'Claw Health Brochure', which D4Dairy helped to create:  (

The data basis for the creation of the benchmarking system was the claw health data of cows from 512 Austrian dairy farms electronically documented by professional claw trimmers within the framework of the project 'Klauen-Q-Wohl' and the lameness and locomotion score data of 99 Austrian dairy farms regularly collected by specially trained LKV employees within the framework of 'D4Dairy'.

To describe claw health, the mean, median, and 10-, 25-, 75-, and 90-percentiles of the incidence rate of lameness, the incidence rate of 13 specific claw lesions, and the annual culling rate due to claw and limb diseases were used as key performance indicators. Only validated data sets were used to calculate these key performance indicators. Particular emphasis is placed on findings that are always associated with pain for the cows, the so-called alarm lesions. The benchmarking shows that between the 10% of the best (10th percentile) and worst (90th percentile) farms, very clear differences can be seen and thus there is enormous potential for improvement. For example, alarm findings in the 10th percentile occur in only 6.3% of cows, while in the 90th percentile they are found in 62.2%. In the better 50% of farms, no cows need to be culled due to claw and limb disorders, while in the 90th percentile this is necessary in 24.4%.

The benchmarking system for claw health developed within the project 'D4Dairy' was integrated into the already existing program 'LKV Herd Manager' in the transnational cattle data network (RDV), which enables a benchmarking of udder health, fertility and now also claw health on the farm. It is thus available to all participating farmers and can also support them in discussions with experts (consultants, veterinarians).

The developed benchmarking for claw health and lameness can support the analysis of the improvement potential for the own farm, encourage farmers to make improvements and thus help to improve animal welfare and minimize economic losses due to lame cows.

Contact: Ao.Univ.Prof.Dr. Johann Kofler, Vetmeduni Vienna,

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