Leg Hygiene Guides Foot Bathing Frequency

By Steve Mason on

The greater the manure contamination of the lower leg, the more frequently cows should be foot bathed. While some farms with excellent leg hygiene may use a footbath only once a week, others must footbath 5-7 days per week.

Use the four point leg hygiene scoring assessment described here to determine frequency. Score at least 20% of the cows in each pen in a free stall herd or all of the cows in a tie stall herd. In herds with fewer than 25% of cows scoring a 3 or 4 score, foot bathing can be done as needed. Conversely, where herds have >75% of cows scoring 3 and 4, foot bathing is probably a necessity 7 days per week.

Leg Hygiene Score 1

Score 1: clean; little or no manure contamination

Leg Hygiene Score 2

Score 2: slightly dirty, lightly splashed with manure

Leg Hygiene Score 3

Score 3: moderately dirty, distinct plaques of manure on the foot progressing up the leg

Leg Hygiene Score 4

Score 4: very dirty, confluent plaques of caked-on manure on the foot and higher up the lower limb


Typically footbaths can be run twice a day, even in 3 times a day milked herds, BUT if the footbath is not in use, cows MUST be able to bypass it and not walk through a pit of manure. If there is no way around the bath – put something in it!

Cows appear to be more susceptible to digital dermatitis in early lactation, so the final footbath frequency for groups within a herd can be manipulated. For example, the close up group can be foot bathed once a week while early lactation cows should be foot bathed at the maximum recommended frequency, determined by leg hygiene. Late lactation cows may be foot bathed at 50-75% of the target frequency in order to save on chemical costs.

Proportion of cows scoring 3 or 4Suggested foot bathing frequency
< 25as required
25 - 502 days per week
50 - 755 days per week
> 757 days per week

source: Nigel Cook, University of Wisconsin

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