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Dairy Today Healthline

Bottoms Up: Tips to Prevent Lameness

Feb 03, 2014

Economic data clearly show that financial losses from hoof disease far exceed the costs of prevention.

Jessica Light Zoetis By Jessica Light, DVM, MA, Dairy Technical Services, Zoetis

Today, there are 36 million hooves making their imprint on U.S. dairy farms. With that many hooves on dairies, hoof health becomes an important factor in maintaining cow care and overall Dairy Wellness.

Clinical lameness is pervasive, found on about 31% of California dairies and 55% of dairies in the Northeast, according to the University of British Columbia’s Animal Welfare Program, which partnered on research with key dairy industry players in the United States and Canada.1 According to other studies, the vast majority of lameness cases are caused by diseases of the foot.2

Economic data clearly show that financial losses from hoof disease far exceed the costs of prevention. Decreased milk production, weight loss, premature death and culling, decreased reproductive performance and treatment expenses are the most recognized financial costs of allowing cows to succumb to lameness.3

Preventive measures to help minimize lameness include hoof trimming at least once per lactation. Hoof trimming provides claw soundness and also can help uncover potential hoof problems such as ulcers. Another important preventive measure for lameness is early detection of disease. Incentivizing cow pushers and milkers to identify lame cows early and to take action for diagnosis and treatment can have a positive impact on reducing herd lameness.

Proper nutrition management also can help lower the number of foot problems in the dairy herd. Changes in feeding can have a tremendous impact on claw health. Laminitis has many contributing factors, but a good nutrition program will go a long way to reduce the impact of laminitis.

In cases of foot rot, prompt treatment is critical. A single case is estimated to cost up to $446 per cow, and it increases the risk of culling, especially during the first half of lactation.4 But extended antibiotic therapy with EXCEDE® (ceftiofur crystalline free acid) Sterile Suspension can help reduce labor costs, hospital pen exposure and performance losses because cows remain in the milking string. EXCENEL® RTU EZ (ceftiofur hydrochloride) Sterile Suspension also is a powerful choice for treatment of foot rot.5

The Dairyland Initiative from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, examines the impact of the housing environment on dairy cattle well-being. It notes that footbath protocols are an important part of hoof health. Maintaining a clean and dry foot environment and regular footbaths create an effective management protocol. The objective of footbathing is to remove erosive material from the hoof and to disinfect the skin above the hooves.

Best management practices for successful footbaths endorsed by The Dairyland Initiative and other hoof experts are:

• Placing footbaths in a well-lit and ventilated area
• Using footbaths that are easy to clean and refill
• Situating footbaths in lanes so they don’t disrupt cow flow, especially out of the parlor
• Setting up footbaths on nonslip surfaces
• Keeping the footbath free of debris and at an effective pH level

For producers looking to reduce copper sulfate use in footbaths, the state-of-the-art formulation of HOOF-TEC™ footbath products allows them to run more efficient footbaths by reducing copper sulfate use by up to 40%.* With fewer footbaths and better pH management, producers can achieve Dairy Wellness from the ground up.

Producers should work with their veterinarian to create a great hoof care program and do their part to keep those 36 million hooves healthy and strong. Visit for more tips and tools to manage animal health and productivity.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION for EXCEDE: People with known hypersensitivity to penicillin or cephalosporins should avoid exposure to EXCEDE. EXCEDE is contraindicated in animals with known allergy to ceftiofur or to the ß-lactam group (penicillins and cephalosporins) of antimicrobials. Inadvertent intra-arterial injection is possible and fatal. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal. Pre-slaughter withdrawal time is 13 days following the last dose. See full Prescribing Information here

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION for EXCENEL RTU EZ: People with known hypersensitivity to penicillin or cephalosporins should avoid exposure to EXCENEL RTU EZ. Do not use in animals found to be hypersensitive to the product. Do not slaughter cattle for 4 days following last treatment. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal. See full Prescribing Information here

1 The University of British Columbia Dairy Education and Research Centre. Lameness on BC and US dairy farms. Available at: Accessed January 8, 2014.
2 Warnick LD, Janssen D, Guard CL, Gröhn YT. The effect of lameness on milk production in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2001;84(9):1988-1997.
3 Weaver AD. Economic importance of digital diseases in cattle. Bov Pract 1984;19:223-225.
4 Booth CJ, Warnick LD, Gröhn YT, Maizon DO, Guard CL, Janssen D. Effect of lameness on culling in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2004;87(12):4115-4122.
5 Van Donkersgoed J, Dussault M, Knight P, Byers L. Clinical efficacy of a single injection of ceftiofur crystalline free acid sterile injectable suspension versus three daily injections of ceftiofur sodium sterile powder for the treatment of footrot in feedlot cattle. Vet Ther 2008;9(2):157-162.

* Based on traditional copper sulfate dosage rate of 5% of footbath volume. Copper sulfate dosage with HOOF-TEC™ 1000 Footbath Concentrate is reduced to a rate of 3% of footbath volume. The change in dosage results in a 40% reduction of copper sulfate use.

You can reach Dr. Light at All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2014 Zoetis Inc. All rights reserved. HFT14011 

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