Locomotion Scoring

Locomotion scoring

Parklands Farm vets believe managing lameness is key to achieveing good performance in the herd and as such locomotion scoring to monitor perceived subclinical lameness is essential. We can do this through our vets OR Vet Techs to achieve an understanding of the issues within the herd and the environment.

Locomotion scoring was developed to simplify the task of identifying affected animals. It is a simple way of evaluating an animal’s back posture, both standing and walking, by assigning a qualitative score as an index of their ability to walk normally.

Various scoring systems are available but in Sprecher’s 5-point system, cows are visually scored from 1 (cow with a normal posture and gait) to 5 (cow is severely lame, often only bearing weight on three legs).

Scores of 2 and 3 are generally considered to represent cows that are sub-clinically lame and where problems caught should be treatable. Scores of 4 and 5 represent cows that are clinically lame and experience severe difficulty walking and extreme pain. A score above 1 does not indicate why a cow’s gait is affected; it merely shows that she has some degree of gait abnormality.



Source (adapted from): Steven L. Berry, DVM, MPVM; Univ of Davis, CA, and Zinpro Corporation 1992, in J Hulsen, Cow Signals


From assessing cattle lameness, Fact sheet: Zinpro performance minerals (2007)

Locomotion scoring assists in early identification of potential claw disorders before they become painful, as cows with claw abnormalities change their back posture and the movement of their feet and legs to offset pain. The objective is to identify cows scoring 2 or above as candidates for corrective trimming or treatment, and to assess the prevalence of herd lameness. (Zinpro 2005)

Scoring should be carried out on a flat surface, free of obstacles and debris, with cows walking at a normal pace. Around 25-50 percent of the herd should be scored every two to four months to asses if lameness is becoming more or less prevalent and to determine if measures to decrease lameness are effective.

It may be impossible to eradicate all lameness on farms but the goal should be to eliminate clinical lameness and achieve a level whereby around 65 percent of the herd has a score of I and only around 5 — 10 percent has a score of 4. Those with a score of 5 should be removed from the main herd to recuperate in a treatment area.

Locomotion Score

% cows scored at each level

  Average Herd Target Herd
1 55 65
2 10 10
3 12 15
4 20 10
5 3 0

Locomotion score targets for a 5-Point scoring system (Source: cook 2007)

Locomotion scoring does not identify why a cow is lame, it only serves an indicator of which cows may be lame. Bear in mind that a poor locomotion score may not always be due to a problem with the hooves or legs, but could also indicate conditions such as acidosis or a displaced abomasum.

This type of scoring system can also be used to asses the extent of an expected reduction in dry matter intake and milk yield due to lameness and thereby to calculate potential revenue loss. That loss can be used as a criterion to determine whether intervention is required and/or warranted. The next stage is to diagnose the problem before a treatment regime can be devised, often carried out when hoof trimming.

Information kindly provided by DeLaval UK