Nigel Cook recently reviewed current footbath practices used in dairy herds, questioned the mechanism by which footbaths function, and reviewed the available scientific literature for guidelines to assist in the creation of best practices for their use. Based on that review, a summary of his recommendations for footbath design and management is presented.
Sara Pedersen, a prominent UK veterinary consultant who specializes in hoof health, presented her recommendations for digital dermatitis (DD) control at the recent UK Cattle Lameness Conference. Her ‘blitz’ treatment approach is designed to break the cycle of environmental contamination of the bacteria that cause DD, recognizing that these Treponemes only survive in slurry for up to 24 hours.
Many studies have demonstrated that lameness reduces milk production. But which hoof lesions are associated with the greatest milk losses? UK researchers compared the effects of specific hoof lesions on milk loss over complete lactations of 1,824 cows in 30 dairy herds.
Prevention of DD focuses on biosecurity, maintaining good barn hygiene and routine foot bathing. Treatment of DD infections is typically only done by hoof trimmers at their infrequent visits—usually by applying antibiotic and bandaging for a few days. But, because new infections can rapidly advance, early detection and treatment is necessary to minimize new outbreaks of active lesions.
Over the past few years, researchers at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine have been working to develop a practical way to routinely identify and treat painful DD lesions in the milking parlour.
When troubleshooting lameness problems, I use a structured approach starting with locomotion scoring, lesion analysis and assessment of the routine hoof-trimming and lame cow surveillance program. I then examine the risk factors for each of the key hoof lesions and finish with a review of feeding practices. From this examination, we can create a herd specific action plan designed to maximize impact on the key hoof lesions on the farm.
The University of Calgary Lameness Research Team has been hard at work studying the use and effectiveness of footbaths on Alberta dairies.
While there is progress to be made in proper usage, the good news is: Results confirm that footbaths are an effective tool in decreasing the prevalence of digital dermatitis (DD).
A comprehensive strategy for the control of digital dermatitis (DD) in dairy herds was presented at the 2016 UK Cattle Lameness Conference. The 5-point plan, which applies to young stock as well as dry and lactating cows, includes:
1. External biosecurity to keep disease out of farm
2. Internal biosecurity to minimise infection pressure on cows
3. Early identification, recording and treatment of clinical cases, in
association with hoof care
4. Frequent foot disinfection to reduce new cases
5. Defining and monitoring hoof health targets
To examine the influence of their hoof trimming strategies on hoof health, herds participating in phase 1 of the Alberta Dairy Hoof Health Project were classified according to whether they did whole-herd or partial-herd trims. On farms with partial-herd trims, prevalences of the most common lesions were higher than on farms with whole-herd trims.
To control digital dermatitis (DD), M2-stage lesions need to be treated as soon as possible after they are detected. Waiting more than a few days for the next time the trimmer is scheduled to visit will never get DD under control. Several studies have examined the accuracy of DD detection in the milking parlour compared with lifting feet in a trim chute. Results suggest that inspection of heels in the parlour using a simple mirror and headlamp is a viable option for routinely monitoring DD lesions.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin reported that heifers with pre-partum digital dermatitis (DD) had lower milk production, poorer conception to first service, longer days open and were more likely to have multiple cases of DD. Those researchers recommended that a DD control program should be a priority for pregnant heifers. But before a control program can be implemented, a reliable method of detecting DD in these animals is required. At the 2016 Western Canadian Dairy Seminar, University of Calgary graduate student Casey Jacobs described how she used ‘pen walks’ to detect DD in pre-calf heifers.