Little Scientific Evidence for Effectiveness of CuSO4 Foot Bathing

By Steve Mason on

Digital dermatitis (DD) has become one of the most important infectious diseases of dairy cattle in most developed countries, resulting in compromised animal welfare and significant financial loss. Because individual cow treatments for DD are often regarded as too time-consuming, footbaths are commonly used to attempt control of DD; copper sulfate (CuSO4) is considered the industry gold standard when it comes to footbath chemicals.

In several scientific studies testing the efficacy of other footbath products, CuSO4 has been used as a positive control, suggesting that CuSO4 has a known positive effect. However, this may not be the case. A recent article in the Journal of Dairy Science evaluated the existing scientific literature to determine whether the efficacy of CuSO4 used in footbaths against DD has, in fact, been clearly demonstrated.

A systematic literature search identified 7 peer-reviewed journal articles describing the efficacy of CuSO4 in foot baths for treatment or prevention of bovine digital dermatitis. Only 2 of the 7 studies compared CuSO4 to a negative control (no treatment); most studies were relatively small, and often no clear positive effect of CuSO4 was demonstrated. The author of the study concludes that the frequent claim that CuSO4 foot bathing is effective is supported by little scientific evidence.

The full Journal of Dairy Science article is accessible here.

One comment

  1. I have seen dramatic results on farms switching to acidified copper sulfate foot baths time and time again. Farms that have started consistently running a 5% copper sulfate foot baths have virtually eliminated DD in their milking herd in a relatively short amount of time even where DD was wreaking havoc on the feet. Alternately, I have seen very poor results on farms that had switched from copper sulfate to other products including a couple that were/are part of Corporate/University studies. Within a matter of weeks DD had become a severe problem when switching from copper sulfate foot baths to various new solutions, only to be corrected after switching back. Thanks to Hoof Supervisor these events have been tracked. Perhaps it is time for a comprehensive study proving the effectiveness of copper sulfate in controlling DD. Unfortunately there is a definite incentive to prove efficacy of new solutions that can be patented rather than spending money proving that a common product is most effective.

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