Although it is commonly believed that the primary cause of claw horn lesions in dairy cattle is rumen acidosis, resulting from the feeding of highly fermentable diets, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support this idea. Recent research supports alternative explanations.
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.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham, UK have shown that untreated sole hemorrhage, sole ulcers and white line lesions can lead to excess bone development at the caudal end of the pedal bone, resulting in chronic lameness.
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.
Zinpro has recently released a new book and app dealing with beef and dairy cattle hoof health. ‘Cattle Lameness: Identification, Prevention and Control of Claw Lesions’ is a Zinpro-led industry effort to assist cattle producers in improving animal wellness through the prevention of lameness.
In his past 30 years of hoof trimming, Vic Daniel has seen digital dermatitis (DD) become by far the most common hoof lesion in his clients’ herds. Vic has kept detailed records of the claws he has trimmed—for the past 7 years using the Hoof Supervisor® lesion recording system. Here are what Vic has concluded are the main risk factors for DD.
Dr. Ernest Hovingh, an Extension Veterinarian at Penn State University, has contributed 2 excellent webinars on dairy cattle lameness. Both webinars extend from details of hoof anatomy to best management practices aimed at promoting hoof health.
Current recommendations for the length of the dorsal hoof wall after trimming range from 60 to 85 mm; the most common recommendation being 75 mm. A British research study that examined internal claw structure using x-ray computed tomography (CT scan) suggests that the minimum external dorsal claw length recommendation should be increased to at least 90 mm for Holstein-Friesian cows over 4 years of age and at least 85 mm for younger cows.