Category Zinc sulfate
By Dale Baker
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Expert
As the summer heat wave rolls in, some producers may be thinking about installing a footbath to better manage hoof health. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are some general guidelines for installing and maintaining a footbath on your dairy:
Footbath Placement: Many veterinarians suggest putting the footbath in a well-lit, ventilated area of the barn, somewhere near the parlor exit lanes. By placing the footbath there, you can make sure each cow makes a pass after being milked.
- 10-12 feet long
- 28-30 inches wide
- 10 inches of step-in height
- One removable side wall
Remember: The sides of your bath should create a tunnel. Check out this illustration by Dr. Nigel Cook of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Footbath Frequency of Use: Frequency of use for footbaths is based on leg hygiene. Dr. Cook suggests that cows be sorted based upon the hygiene rating of their leg area, with a score of one being clean, and a score of four being very dirty. Check out Dr. Cook’s Hoof and Leg Hygiene Chart here. Initially, your herd may need to use the bath once a day, but as you continue the program, they might only need to use it once a week.
Footbath Solutions and Additives: Solutions, like hand soap or rock salt, help clean manure off a cow’s leg. However, Cook does not recommend using only solutions. “Footbath programs should always contain one or more disinfectants,” says Cook.
The most common disinfectants used in footbaths are copper or zinc sulfate. These chemicals target the digit region of a cow’s foot.
To cut down on the amount of copper or zinc sulfate in the footbath, include an additive such as AgroChem’s HoofMax. HoofMax can increase the longevity of copper sulfate, which can reduce both the amount of copper required, as well as the overall cost of the footbath. Or consider a footbath concentrate like HealMax to manage hoof health without heavy metals or formaldehyde.
Footbath Maintenance: In order to keep your footbath clean and efficient, monitor the following:
- The pH level of the footbath should be between 1.5 and 4.5
- Allow for 200 to 300 cows passes before changing the water. If using an additive like HoofMax, you may be able to increase the number of cow passes to 500 (for 50 gallons) or 1,000 (for 100 gallons).
By building a footbath, you can control an outbreak of Digital Dermatitis in your herd, maintain hoof hardness, and improve your herd’s overall health.
For more information about installing a footbath on your dairy operation, see your hoof trimmer, or veterinarian.
Wet spring conditions pose a variety of hoof health challenges for dairy producers. Here are three of the biggest problems – and the best ways to tackle them for healthy hooves year-round:
- Control excessive moisture. Spring rains mean hooves and skin are subjected to moisture to longer periods of time, making them more susceptible to Digital Dermatitis (Hairy Heel Wart) and other infections. Repeated freeze-and-thaw cycles can cause mud and water build-up, and interfere with manure removal. Extra steps should be taken during this time to keep stalls, alleys and parlors as clean and dry as possible.
- Ensure footbaths are working properly. If you’ve reduced or eliminated footbaths during the winter, now is the time to get them up and running again. Operations using copper or zinc sulfate footbaths can follow this sample protocol for HoofMax. Producers who prefer to tackle digital dermatitis without heavy metals or formaldehyde can use a product like HealMax, available in a footbath concentrate as well as spray or foam. Decide whether or not a pre-wash makes sense for your operation.
- Adopt a proactive approach. Of course, the best way to prevent hoof problems and costly lameness is with a proactive, hoof health program year-round. Ask your local AgroChem representative about a hoof care protocol that’s right for your operation. For more information about proven hoof health solutions by AgroChem, contact your AgroChem representative today.
Copper sulfate is a staple on many dairy operations these days, thanks to its efficacy in treating and preventing hoof health problems. Copper sulfate is bacteriostatic, binding to and neutralizing pathogens in organic matter that can cause digital dermatitis and other problems. After 150 cow passes or so, the used solution is traditionally mixed with manure waste and disposed by land application.
Unfortunately, copper sulfate accumulates quickly in soil. Researchers from the W.H. Miner Institute have estimated that copper is applied to farm land at a rate of 4 lbs per acre approximately 18% of the time. The rate at which copper is removed from soil is much slower – only about 0.5 lbs/acre for typical grain and forage crops. Without careful management, dairy farmers may exceed their maximum soil copper loading in as few as five years, resulting in toxicity to soil microbes and crops.
Regulators in several states are now pressuring dairy producers to reduce or eliminate the use of copper sulfate in footbaths. Strategies for reducing copper loading on land include:
- Reducing the frequency of footbaths to the bare minimum needed to control hoof problems.
- Using a pre-wash to remove more organic matter and extending the life of the copper sulfate footbath.
- Zinc also accumulates in soil, and does not perform as well as copper.
- Using footbath products that don’t contain heavy metals, such as HealMax.
- Using additives that optimize and extend the activity of copper sulfate, such as HoofMax or DuraHoof.
Once copper sulfate reaches the toxic threshold in soil, the problem cannot be reversed. Careful management at every stage, from footbath preparation to manure disposal, can go a long way in reducing copper loading on land. See your professional hoof trimmer for more information on managing copper sulfate in your dairy operation.
Source: Epperson, Bill and Midla, Lowell. Copper Sulfate for Footbaths – Issues and Alternatives. Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference, April 24-25, 2007.