In an interview with the veterinary journal InPractice, renowned dairy hoof health specialist Roger Blowey discusses cattle lameness and current thinking about the causes and control of digital dermatitis (DD). An illustrated version of the 13 minute podcast is below.
Some of the key points Roger makes include:
- DD accounts for 25% of all dairy cattle lameness in the UK.
- Until the late 1990s, DD mainly affected only the skin of the hoof heel; more recently, the bacteria causing DD have been found to cause conditions like toe necrosis and other non-healing claw lesions.
- Entry of the pathogen into the claw causes breakdown of the corium, the tissue that produces the hoof horn and provides nutrients to the pedal bone (P3), resulting in poor quality horn and irreversible pitting of the bone.
- Wet alleys and bedding are the main environmental factors that predispose animals to DD; clean, dry hooves are much less susceptible to infection.
- Minimizing the time cows spend standing (e.g., waiting to be milked or to feed) and providing clean, dry stall bedding will reduce the risk of infection.
- It is equally important to monitor and minimize infections in bred heifers to reduce the number of infected animals entering the milking herd.
- Hoof knives are potential vectors for the spread of DD.
- DD should be considered ‘mastitis of the foot’ and should be treated in the same routine way including early detection and prompt treatment, improvement of the environment and twice daily disinfection of hooves.