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A recent continuing education webinar for Ontario bovine vets about cattle foot health covered a wide range of lameness issues. Some of the key takeaways focused on management of digital dermatitis (or strawberry foot rot) and how to look at the bigger picture of managing the disease on the farm. Often we zero in on footbaths, which are certainly an important part of controlling DD, but there are other things to incorporate into a well rounded management plan. Another point raised by Dr. Gerard Cramer during the meeting was that copper sulfate and formalin foot baths have been banned or restricted in parts of Europe, due to health and environmental concerns, so it is best that we learn to use several control strategies and not just rely on foot baths.


Moos News

Managing Digital Dermatitis

It’s not all about foot baths...


Key Points:

  • Biosecurity and keeping DD out of your herd is the first step. Think about cows you bring into your herd, hoof trimmer and equipment sanitation, even boot cleanliness when moving between groups of cattle. If your hoof trimmer is finding lots of “recurrent lesions” (labelled M4.1 on some trim reports) - meaning that chronic/non-active lesions are sprouting areas of new active infection on them - this means that biosecurity is not being managed well because cattle are being reinfected instead of resolving. 

  • If heifers are getting DD, this presents a particular challenge. 67% of heifers with a case of DD pre-calving have recurrence when joining the lactating herd. So it is especially important to get on top of the problem. Focusing on manure management and biosecurity between heifers and cows is important. Think about which direction the scraper goes! If it’s going from cow pens to heifer pens, that’s a problem. Dry pens and dry feet are best. It can be difficult to visually spot DD lesions in heifers, so treating individuals is not always feasible. 

  • Cleanliness and manure management is the most important. Studies showed that if the manure scraper runs <8 times a day, there is a higher risk for DD. A few studies have looked at washing hooves with just clean water either after every milking or even just once a week. The effect of washing the lower legs and reducing manure contamination decreased the risk of having DD, and also transitioned active lesions to inactive/chronic lesions. This can be an alternative to foot bathing, if you have the ability to based on your barn design.

  • What frequency of foot bathing is right? General rules depend on the prevalence of DD in your herd. It is important to work with your trimmer and veterinarian and look at trim records to truly know where you are at.

    • High prevalence (>30% of herd affected) or an outbreak situation: requires 5-7x a week so almost daily. 

    • Moderate prevalence (20-30%) requires 4-6x a week

    • Low prevalence (<5%) requires 2-3x a week. 


Getting your herd vet involved in the foot health of your herd is a good idea. Sharing reports from the hoof trimmer is a good way to start (if your trimmer provides them) and keeping good data going forward will help with troubleshooting any lameness issues.

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