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Lameness in dairy herds a serious issue

May 16, 2013 | 0 comments

Lameness in dairy herds is a serious issue.

Karl Burgi has a great deal of experience dealing with hoof issues and founded Dairyland Hoof Care Institute, based in Baraboo.

He says prevention plus proper treatment techniques are just as important as nutrition as a means of improving a dairy herd's mobility.

Burgi advises keeping yards clean so cows do not walk through or stand in wet manure. "It's the cow that stands in manure that gets hairy warts," he says. "And it's the dry manure from yesterday that sticks to their feet."

Once cleanliness of cow's feet has been addressed, the reality is most herds will require regular use of a properly sized foot bath to clean and disinfect feet.

There are few clinical studies to prove the efficacy and economics of most current footbath products, but almost any product can be effective when used frequently in an appropriately sized footbath.

A good footbath protocol starts with thinking of footbaths as a prevention tool, similar like a good teat dip, properly applied, is a mastitis preventative tool.


To be effective a footbath should be designed properly, he says. It should be 10-12 feet long so each foot steps into the solution three times on the way through. It should be no wider than 20 inches with four inches of solution in the long, narrow bath.

Burgi also suggests checking the pH of the water when mixing the bath solution. If the pH goes above 5, something that happens as manure and straw gets into the solution, the copper sulfate will not be effective.

To keep cows moving without stopping to make manure deposits, he recommends having high sidewalls.

"Cows like to look around and linger. If there is a wall on each side they will keep moving to the opening at the end," he says. "If there is only a wall on one side, put some plywood up against the gates on the other side when you use the footbath."

Burgi adds, "They used to think a cow should walk through clear water first to wash manure off the feet before entering the copper sulfate bath. Now we have learned its best not to use water first. Wet feet absorb less solution."

He says when done properly, a foot bath should be effective for two milkings before the pH goes up too high from contamination and won't be as effective.

Burgi says he has successfully treated 700 cows in one footbath solution before changing it.

Cows that are known to have hoof wart problems can be treated individually by filling an empty soap bottle with copper sulfate solution and spraying the mixture directly on the problem area.

Burgi says some farmers used formaldehyde in the past but he does not recommend it because it burns the outside of the hoof and the bacteria moves in further. He cautions, "It's also bad for your lungs if you breathe it in."

He recommends working with a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. He has several suggestions for sprays:

• 2 quarts Super Booster plus eight pounds Copper Sulfate and 15 gallons water mixed in a drum. An acid-resistant sprayer should be used for this mixture.

• 40g Lincomix and 60 cc mild liquid soap to make one gallon of spray

• 5 oz. Tet 1000 powder and one gallon of distilled water or one gallon of vinegar.

Burgi also shared ideas for other foot issues including iodine and sugar for treating hoof rot.

When this method is used he suggested using 1 percent iodine mixture with aloe vera or petroleum jelly first to make a paste and then mix with the sugar. This prevents the mixture from getting grainy and hard to spread smoothly on the hoof.

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