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. Here is an outline of the ‘blitz’ strategy she recommends, as reported in Farmers Guardian magazine (full article here):
- A whole herd inspection of every cow in the parlour, using a hose to wash rear feet, particularly between the heels, and, where necessary, a mirror or torch (flashlight) to pick up sites of infection.
- Once infected animals have been identified, treatment should be immediate and simultaneously address every single case.
- Treatment should preferably be in a trim chute, as success rates are slightly higher than treating when the cow is standing. In addition, food safety standards in some countries don’t allow the use of antibiotic sprays during milking.
- Treatment should take the form of a topical antibiotic such as oxytetracycline spray applied to the lesion, a use for which it is licensed in most countries. Treat for three consecutive days, or until the lesions have started to heal. Unless treated cows can be separated from the unaffected cows, footbathing should not be carried out during the treatment phase.
- Start footbathing when all treated lesions are covered by a thick black scab and no longer painful. Use a product that is effective and re-assess your footbath design and protocol to ensure it is disinfecting the foot sufficiently – aiming for at least two and preferably three dunks of each hind foot. Bathing prevents dormant lesions recurring and new ones starting – footbaths should not be viewed as treatments for DD.
- Re-inspect feet every month or six weeks.
|How a Blitz Approach Worked for One Farm|
|A trial at Marcross Farm, near Llantwit Major in south Wales, has reinforced Sara Pedersen’s advice. Its owner, Hopkin Evans, has battled a long-term digital dermatitis problem, treating infection whenever it was identified over many years.
At the start of trial, 37 of the 144 adult cows had an active or recurring lesion on one or both of their hind feet. There were 49 active/recurring lesions, equivalent to 14 per cent (1 in 6) hind feet affected. The farm turned to the ‘blitz’ treatment protocol followed by a more effective footbathing regime including daily footbathing in 5 per cent formalin and the installation of a new 4m-long footbath.
At a follow-up review six weeks later, the number of active/recurring lesions in the herd had declined to three. At another review five months from the start, there was just one case present, and the farm now continues to average only one case per month.