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Use Foot Baths As Prevention, Not Cure For Spring Lameness

07 June 2013

US - Humid spring conditions have arrived, requiring farmers to monitor hoof condition continuously and rigorously trim and dip feet to prevent infection and digital dermatitis.

Keeping hooves dry is the best way to prevent lameness, which, after mastitis, is the second highest reason for culling cows in the US.

Farms where cows spend more time with their hooves exposed to wet surfaces should use the footbath more frequently, at least twice a day until conditions improve, says Alvara Garcia, Dairy Extension Specialist at South Dakota State University.

By using footbaths and hoof trimming, the likelihood of infections can be reduced, he adds.

“During the first hour of exposure to water the hoof gains one-third of the total absorbed. Excessive water softens hooves, easing access of infectious agents such as the one responsible for hairy heel warts (digital dermatitis)," says Mr Garcia. "This is one of the leading lameness causes with 62 and 49 per cent cases in bred heifers and cows, respectively.”

Despite the benefits of hoof trimming, 20 per cent of US dairies do not hoof-trim their cows. Although not a problem on some holdings, Mr Garcia warns that failure to trim hooves results in uneven hoof growth and weight bearing issues that often compound stress on the feet and joints.

Of course not all farms are the same, he adds. Holdings with a preponderance of wet surfaces predispose lameness and cattlemen should look to regularly use foot baths in these instances to safeguard against infection.

“Footbaths can be used as a biosecurity measure when introducing new cows, but remember they should be used as prevention rather than cure of an infectious lameness problem,” says Mr Garcia.

Copper sulphate is the most common medication added to footbaths. Mr Garcia recommends a 2.5 to five per cent addition, or 26 pounds to every 62 gallons of water.

Replacing the solution is important as dirt accumulates in the trough, making the solution ‘inactive’.

In addition, Formalin – a solution of just over one third formaldehyde – is required at four per cent at a ratio of 10:1 with water.

In a worst case scenario Mr Garcia recommends the antibiotics Lincomycin or Oxytetracycline when infection is suspected.

Mr Garcia reassures that these efforts are worthwhile in stopping digital dermatitis, responsible for 62 per cent of lameness in bred heifers.

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms

 


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