Understanding the costs of digital dermatitis and benefits of different treatments for dairy cows using a new computer program could help producers tackle it in the most cost-effective way.

Richard Cooke, who undertook the DEFRA-funded project at Reading University, told delegates that 70-90% of UK herds were thought to be affected by digital dermatitis.

It was believed to be responsible for a quarter of lameness cases.

To help producers choose the best prevention option, he investigated the risks according to housing type and tractor or automatic slurry scrapping.

He then worked out the cost of outcomes of cases through reduced fertility, lost milk yield and extra labour requirement.

Simple inputs into the resulting computer program from a vet or adviser who knows the farm and its digital dermatitis risks, will identify annual costs of the disease.

Then the user can pick from control strategy options and find out the likely reduction in cases and the financial benefit.

Redoing the calculation using different options suitable for the farm will identify the best solution for that particular farm.

It is hoped the program will be made available to vets doing health planning next year.