In this week’s article, CAFRE’s, Richard Gibson discusses tackling digital dermatitis this winter.
If digital dermatitis is a problem on your farm this winter, routine foot bathing is the most practical control method.
However, to be successful, it must be carried out effectively. This means regular foot bathing in a correctly designed facility using the right chemical.
Modern automatic footbaths have been adopted successfully on farms.
Whilst these baths help with workload management and maintain the correct concentration of chemical, the basic principle is still the same.
- To allow time for the chemical to penetrate, the cow needs to take at least three strides through the treatment bath;
- The bath must, therefore, be at least 3 m long;
- Fill the bath to a depth of 10 cm to ensure the foot is covered up to the top of the hoof;
- Accurately measure the amount of chemical required. This includes topping up;
- Dilute mixes are not as effective, and more concentrated mixes may cause damage that leads to an increase in lameness.
Double foot bath
Ideally, provide a double foot bath; the first bath washes the feet, and the second is the treatment bath.
If using a pre-wash bath, there should ideally be one cow length between the pre-wash and treatment baths, along with good drainage to remove excess water.
Another option is to wash the cow’s feet before they leave the parlour on the way out to the foot bath.
A clean hoof provides a perfect environment for the chemical to contact the infected area.
This option will, however, carry an increased risk of a mastitis flare-up. The frequency of treatment depends on the incidence of infection.
The minimum regime should be to foot bath after four consecutive milkings each week to minimise digital dermatitis.
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