Category Digital Dermatitis

Digital Dermatitis Control Starts with Heifers

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

dairy cow hoof healthSpring time means freshening heifers for many dairy producers. New cows in the milking herd bring increased milk production and perhaps a few other things, like digital dermatitis.

To control the spread of digital dermatitis, studies have suggested that treatment of the disease must start with heifers.

“Digital dermatitis control must start during the heifer-rearing period,” says Dr. Nigel Cook of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who co-authored a recent study that looked at the progression of digital dermatitis in a dairy herd over 5 years. The results suggested that prompt topical treatment throughout the life cycle of a cow can help control digital dermatitis.

Also called hairy heel warts, digital dermatitis is an infectious disease that can lead to lameness in dairy cows. The disease can be managed through copper or zinc sulfate footbaths or topical treatments. Afflicted cows will have reddened and painful wart-like areas on their hooves.

“If your lactating herd has digital dermatitis and there is no dry cow or pre-lactating heifer preventative footbath program, you will always be taking two steps forward and three steps back,” says Jamie Sullivan in a recent article published in Progressive Dairyman.

Sullivan calls digital dermatitis “mastitis of the foot,” and suggests handling it the same way that mastitis is treated. “If a cow has mastitis, would you just dip her teats more?” she asks, “No. Apply the same concept for footbaths and digital dermatitis.”

Footbath products like HoofMax can cut the cost of a footbath program by using up to 80% less copper sulfate. HealMax Footbath Concentrate delivers results without the use of formaldehyde, and is ideal for whole-herd application HealMax Spray can be applied in the milking parlor as needed, and HealMax Foam is ideal for whole-herd application.

For more information about footbathing your heifers, talk to your hoof trimmer or veterinarian.

Footbath Schedule for Your Dairy Cows

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

Dairy cow footbathAlthough the winter months may bring a schedule of its own, your dairy footbath schedule should not fall to the wayside. Proper footbathing at regular intervals helps prevent the spread of infectious hoof diseases. It can also lead to less lameness from painful dairy cow hoof problems.

Some producers may wonder, what is the main criterion for a dairy footbath schedule?

The condition of the cows’ legs determines dairy footbath schedules. “The more manure contamination on cows’ lower legs, the more frequently we must footbath. While some dairies with excellent leg hygiene may use a footbath only once a week, others must footbath 5 to 7 days per week,” says Dr. Nigel Cook of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and creator of the scoring system.

As shown in the graph below, the scoring of a leg depends on its cleanliness; the higher the score, the dirtier the leg. Once a producer has scored all legs in the milking herd, the percentage of cows scoring a 3 or 4 determines how often the herd should go through a footbath (see graph below).

Dairy cow footbath, scoring chartSource: Footbath alternatives

Another factor that influences footbathing is a cow’s lactation. “Early lactation cows should be footbathed at the maximum frequency determined by the leg hygiene,” says Dr. Cook.

Producers should continue to monitor leg hygiene to alter their footbathing schedule as needed.

Footbath additives such as HealMax and HoofMax can help producers with overall hoof hygiene. HealMax delivers results without heavy metals or formaldehyde. HoofMax can help producers reduce their copper sulfate usage by up to 80%, lowering the cost of a footbath program.

Talk to your veterinarian or hoof trimmer for more information about footbath schedules and treatments.

Winter Hoof Care

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

Winter is an important time to keep hoof health in mind. Footbath schedules and treatments may alter due to freezing temperatures. Although many anti-microbials may not be active during the winter months, hairy heel wart bacteria remain effective throughout the year.

Research done by Dr. Nigel Cook shows that January through March are when infectious lesions that lead to lameness are most active (see graph below). Dr. Cook examined 10 Wisconsin dairy farms over a one-year period to collect this data. “Cold weather during the late winter may lead to manure handling problems in the alleys and reduced frequency of the foot-bathing, triggering an elevation in the rate of new [digital dermatitis] infections,” says Dr. Cook.

AgroChem winter hoof care graph

Source: Progressive Dairyman

In freezing temperatures, footbath additives can become less effective. Formaldehyde loses its effectiveness below 45 degrees. HealMax Footbath Concentrate uses no heavy metals or formaldehyde to stay effective in cooler temperatures.

As an alternative to footbaths, farmers may consider using topical treatments in the milking parlor. HealMax Spray or Foam can be applied during milkings to slow down the progression of hairy heel warts.

For more information about cold-weather hoof care, contact your hoof trimmer or veterinarian today.

The Battle with Digital Dermatitis

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

Digital dermatitis (hairy heel wart) is an ongoing battle for many dairy producers. In this recent article in Dairy Herd Management, Dr. Gabe Middleton outlines how producers can identify the stages of digital dermatitis, and different ways of treating an outbreak.

Common treatments for digital dermatitis are topical salves and footbaths. HealMax Spray from AgroChem is a spot-on application that can be placed directly on digital dermatitis warts. As Dr. Middleton points out, footbaths are important for the prevention of a digital dermatitis outbreak. To reduce the cost of a footbath, consider HoofMax Footbath Concentrate, which can reduce copper sulfate usage by up to 80%. Or to eliminate the use of heavy metals and formaldehyde in your footbath, there is HealMax Footbath Concentrate.

For more information about digital dermatitis and how to treat it, talk to your hoof trimmer or veterinarian.

Attention Hoof Trimmers! The Hoof Health Conference is Coming Soon!

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

Hoof Trimmer's Association logoAre you attending this year’s Hoof Health Conference? We are!

The conference will be held in Atlanta, GA, from February 18-20. Registration is still open on the Hoof Health Conference website.

The featured speaker this year will be Dr. Jan Shearer, who recently finished a survey on lameness disorders and how they are treated across North America. Dr. Shearer was also the subject of our blog on digital dermatitis in feedlots.

Other Conference topics include non-healing lesions, heat stress and hoof health, and a look at hoof problems in Great Britain. Some of the speakers include Dr. Jennifer Walker, a specialist on dairy cow welfare, Dr. Sara Pedersen, a hoof health consultant from Great Britain, and Dr. Chuck Guard, a Cornell University large animal veterinarian. Click here for the full schedule and other important information.

Hope to see you there!

Classification and Treatment of Digital Dermatitis

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

Hary Heel Wart - Digital DermatitisDigital dermatitis, or hairy heel wart, is a widespread and prevalent disease among beef and dairy cattle which can have long term and severe impacts on herd health and productivity. This is a condition that dairy farmers cannot ignore and hope that it goes away. In an October 2015 article by Maggie Seiler, Special Publications Editor for Hoard’s Dairyman, she states:

Management commitments to hoof health are necessary to reduce the prevalence of the disease in the herd.

To care for your cows, you need a long-term strategy that begins with classification of the disease, and a commitment to treatment and management. 

Classification
An excellent method of digital dermatitis classification was introduced by Dörte Döpfer and associates in the 1990s which classifies warts into five different categories:

  • None: No lesions present.
  • Small: Affected area less than 3/4”, red to gray in color, and normal walking.
  • Large: Affected area larger that 3/4”, bright red or red-gray, walking is painful.
  • Healing: Scab covering affected area and becoming smaller.
  • Chronic: characterized by hard and thickened skin and/or continuous warts. Cows with warts in this category can suffer from chronic lameness.

Treatment and Management
Experience teaches that better outcomes prevail when treatment occurs before a large growth appears. Fortunately, there are many treatment options for managing hairy heel wart:

  • Topical salves
  • Antibiotics
  • Footbaths

AgroChem offers excellent options for dairy hoof problems. HealMax® is a biodegradable formula which achieves results without formaldehyde, heavy metals or harsh acids. It is available in a spray, foam, and footbath concentrate formulation, and remains effective in both hot and cold weather. HoofMax® is a footbath additive that can increase the potency copper or zinc sulfate for healthier hooves with more cow passes, less labor and waste, and reduced copper loading on land.

What about prevention?
The bad news is that hairy heel wart is widespread and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate. However, despite its prevalence, the good news is that this debilitating disease can be managed effectively. Producers who aren’t sure where to start might consider beginning their management program with fresh cow groups which are vulnerable to infection. With proper management, dairy farmers and ranch operations can reap the benefits of long term herd health and productivity.

For more information about digital dermatitis, talk to your veterinarian or hoof trimmer today.

Treating Hairy Heel Wart in Heifers

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

heifer hairy heel wartHeifers shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to hoof care treatment. A recent article helps drive home the message that heifers are at as much risk as milking cows for digital dermatitis (hairy heel wart).

In a May interview, hoof health consultant Karl Burgi said that timed trimming in heifers, prior to calving, can go a long way in preventing future hoof problems. Timed trimming is functional trimming at the most advantageous times in order to optimize claw health and prevent lameness. “Springing heifers who have had timed trimming will have 2 to 4 point higher feet and leg scores throughout their productive lives, more milk in their first lactations, and less digital dermatitis,” he notes. “If a heifer’s feet are in good shape ahead of delivering that first calf, she won’t break down in the pasterns as quickly.”

Burgi recommends heifers should be trimmed between 10 and three weeks prior to calving.

On the subject of footbaths for heifers, Burgi believes they do help prevent infectious diseases like hairy heel wart, which may grab hold when dry-cow areas are neglected, or when transition-cow immunity is naturally compromised.

There are many different products are available for managing hairy heel wart and other hoof problems. HealMax by AgroChem is available in a foam, spray and footbath concentrate formulation. The spray can be directly applied to the infected area; the foam can be applied to the whole herd. When used as a footbath concentrate, it can be rotated with DuraHoof, which cuts down on copper sulfate usage. And unlike formaldehyde, HealMax remains effective in both hot and cold weather.

For more information about hairy heel warts and treatment, contact your veterinarian or hoof trimmer today.