Wet, Muddy Conditions Can Lead To Lameness

US - Muddy, wet conditions produce lameness in dairy herds that can lead to production losses, lower fertility, and greater culling rates.
calendar icon 2 September 2010
clock icon 2 minute read

That's according to South Dakota Cooperative Extension Dairy Specialist Alvaro Garcia, who reminded dairy producers that cow deaths due to lameness or injury increased 60 percent between 1996 and 2007.

"Wetness decreases hoof hardness and increases the incidence of claw lesions, and research by Borderas and others has shown that nearly one-third of the total water absorbed by the hoof was during the first hour of exposure to high moisture conditions," said Mr Garcia. "The exposure results in heavier and softer hooves.

Finding ways to decrease the incidence of injury and infectious challenge to the hoof can be accomplished by footbaths and hoof trimming. Footbaths are used to medicate the feet of cattle and aid in preventing lameness. Hoof trimming helps identify hoof disorders and maintain proper hoof health.

Mr Garcia said that when hooves are not trimmed regularly they can grow unevenly, resulting in weight-bearing changes that can damage the underlying tissues. "Regrettably, the use of foot baths is not a common practice in the US. Only about 39 per cent of dairies use them," Mr Garcia said.

"The most common medication added to footbaths is copper sulfate, followed by formaldehyde or formalin, and then oxytetracycline." Mr Garcia said the solution in footbaths should be replaced often and kept free of organic matter since that matter can deactivate the copper in the solution.

In the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science, a research trial compared the effectiveness of copper sulfate, formalin, and a new commercial disinfectant agent, T-Hexx Dragonhyde HBC. The results of this trial showed the new product to be comparable to copper sulfate and better than formalin.

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