A 5-point plan for DD Control

By Steve Mason on

Developed by a group of the world’s leading experts on dairy cattle hoof health,  a comprehensive strategy for the control of digital dermatitis (DD) in dairy herds was presented at the 2016 UK Cattle Lameness Conference. Details of the 5-point plan are as follows:

  1. External biosecurity to keep disease out of farm
    1. Avoid introduction by animals
      1. Prefer closed farm – no buying or bringing in cattle and avoid contract heifer rearing
      2. If not possible, bring in cattle from farms with no DD history (based on regular hoof-trimming records)
      3. Control, and if necessary treat cows brought on farm and before introducing to the herd (including animals brought onto animal shows)
      4. No co-grazing with sheep, pigs, camels, elk, or goats
    2. Avoid introduction by equipment and visitors
      1. No equipment sharing
      2. Sanitation of used equipment entering farm
      3. Sanitation of hoof trimming tools brought on farm
      4. Restrict professional visitors and limit access to animal areas
      5. Prefer boots and clothing dedicated to farm
      6. Clean, sanitise boots and equipment
  1. Internal biosecurity to minimise infection pressure on cows
    1. Maximise cow comfort:
      1. Reduce exposure to manure
      2. Maintain clean and dry alleyways and bedding, with particular attention to areas with frequent cow traffic (e.g. in front of concentrate feeder or water bowl, way to access to pasture …)
      3. Use manure handling (scrapers, robots, equipment) that does not harm the cows
      4. Minimise standing times (e.g. before milking parlour)
      5. Design and maintenance of walkways: non pitted, not rough, not slippery, no holes
      6. No over crowding
      7. Optimise ventilation
      8. Score foot hygiene of cows at a regular basis to detect lack of good foot environment
      9. Conduct regular hoof trimming to maintain good hoof conformation
    2. Avoid transmission between cows:
      1. Segregate infected cows
      2. Avoid moving equipment, manure, animals between groups
      3. Clean and sanitise foot equipment between cows
      4. Clean or change gloves after treatment of cows with serious infectious lesions
      5. Use clean computer keyboard and tablet
  1. Early identification, recording and treatment of clinical cases, in association with hoof care
    1. Observe lame cows and visible foot lesions daily
    2. Treat all detected lesions immediately. Establish treatment protocol with hoof care specialist (vet or hoof trimmer):
      1. Clean feet before treating
      2. Use products per label direction for treatment: regulatory approved or scientifically proved
      3. Wrap recommended, applied without harming the cow and
        removed according to treatment protocol
    3. Register lame cows and foot lesions observed, as well as treatments
    4. Follow up on treatment outcome
    5. Perform regular functional hoof trimming and recording of foot lesions:
      1. Establish hoof trimming protocol with you hoof care specialist
      2. Rely on qualified and competent hoof trimmer or vet or farmer
      3. Recommend using ICAR Claw Health Atlas to record foot lesions
      4. Keep track of animal groups at risk or with high prevalence
    6. Consider culling of chronically infected animals
  1. Frequent foot disinfection to reduce new cases
    1. Consider collective topical spray as preferred option for improved efficacy and in areas where hoof bathing is not possible (e.g. young stock, dry cows)
    2. Take care to foot bath design:
      1. Hoof bath length to allow for at least 2 dunks of rear feet (about 3m long)
      2. Hoof bath position to optimize cow flow
      3. Hoof bath deep enough to cover dew claws
      4. Designed and placed so cows can’t walk with one foot out of the bath
      5. Easy fill, easy drain, easy clean
      6. Consider automated hoof bath to simplify replacement and cleaning
    3. Consider foot cleaning before disinfection (but No cleaning baths without disinfection immediately after)
    4. Provide a clean exit area after disinfection
    5. Use proven effective disinfecting products per manufactures instructions
    6. Environment, user and cow friendly disinfecting products
    7. Use clean hoof bath for hoof bath disinfection
    8. Accurately assess hoof bath volumes to achieve correct concentration
    9. Replace hoof bath per label directions
    10. Monitor hoof bath soiling with manure and adjust replacement frequency (replace hoof bath per label direction or not more than 200-250 passages on average)
    11. Adjust level of disinfectant in foot bath: disinfectant should cover the feet, even of the last cow walking through
    12. Adjust frequency depending on challenge and infection level
  1. Define and monitor targets
    1. Review incidence and prevalence of DD lesions at a regular basis
    2. Establish farm targets (Key Performance Indicators -KPI)

      Painful DD cows per 100 cows
      M2 prevalence per 100 cows
      Cows with no DD lesions per 100 cows
      Differentiate between not cured and new lesions
      Cows treated for DD per 100 cows
      % of cows lame from DD

    3. Define changes in practices: SOPs
    4. Follow up and adjust targets and control measures
    5. Educate staff on hoof health, lesion identification and engage in target setting and achievement
    6. Benchmark KPI with other herds


  • Christer Bergsten, Dept. of Biosystems and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU
  • Roger Blowey, Gloucester, UK
  • Nynne Capion, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Andrea Fiedler, Hoof Health Practice, Munich, Germany
  • Julie Geldhof, DeLaval, Belgium
  • Menno Holzhauer, Dep. Ruminant medicine, GD Animal Health, The Netherlands
  • Piet Kloosterman, Dairy Training Centre, The Netherlands
  • Anne Relun, Dep. Animal Health, Nantes-Atlantic College of Veterinary Medicine, Food Science and Engineering (Oniris), France

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