Dairy Cattle - Lameness (PB4020)

Prevention - Footbaths

The Welfare Code of Recommendations for Cattle, paragraph 51, states that 'Regular attention should be paid to the feet of all classes of cattle'.

lamecow8.jpg (15552 bytes) The proper use of footbaths can help reduce the incidence of foot lameness, particularly that caused by foul of the foot, heel erosion and digital dermatitis, when used with the appropriate treatment. A footbath used with a suitable chemical performs three functions:
  • potentially damaging material is removed by washing action
  • disease-causing bacteria are killed
  • horn is hardened and less easily damaged.
There are different types of footbath solutions available and the appropriate chemical and concentrations should always be used.
Preferably two footbaths should be used in tandem, the first containing water only to clean the feet, and the second containing the solution.

Footbaths should be used throughout the periods of risk ie during the winter housing period and in spring and autumn. Depending on the type of lameness, cows may need to be walked through the footbath three or four times each week. Veterinary advice should be sought on footbath use.

The footbath should be sited so that cows can walk through with minimum disturbance to their normal routine. The access route from the parlour exit is an ideal location, but care taken that it does not affect cow flow from the parlour. The footbath should be a minimum of 900mm wide and should be close-fenced to prevent cows attempting to walk on the edge. A minimum length of 3m is recommended to prevent cows attempting to jump over it. A depth of 200mm is normally sufficient to accommodate a depth of solution to cover the hoof without undue loss of solution over the sides. Sponge mats can also be used in the base of the footbath and are often used where the cost of the treatment is very high. A well is formed where the cows foot makes contact, and the well floods' with the solution from the soaked sponge.

A flat, non-slip floor is adequate, but ridges running the length of the bath have the advantage of spreading the claws allowing better contact between hoof and solution.

Construction should incorporate a means of emptying direct to a suitable collection facility. It must not find its way to a watercourse or groundwater. Advice should be obtained from the appropriate source.

Foot-bathing in formalin does not prevent digital dermatitis. Nor is it any use in treatment of this condition. Other footbath solutions and treatments are necessary and your veterinary surgeon should be consulted for further advice.

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