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.
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 4||Suggested foot bathing frequency|
|< 25||as required|
|25 - 50||2 days per week|
|50 - 75||5 days per week|
|> 75||7 days per week|
source: Nigel Cook, University of Wisconsin