CONTROLLING DIGITAL dermatitis is like controlling mastitis – it depends on environmental hygiene, regular sanitation and treating clinical cases to remove the reservoir of infection.

Glos-based vet Roger Blowey told the conference that both diseases were impossible to eliminate from herds, but following all three practices should keep disease in check. “By the time antibiotics are used to treat mastitis, you are already losing the battle. The key is prevention.”

To keep digital dermatitis under control, clinical cases should be treated with antibiotics. Mr Blowey has seen some good responses on some farms by using an intramammary tube directly into the cleft, covered with a dressing. But he stresses that this off-label use needs a seven-day milk withdrawal and must only be tried in consultation with the farm”s vet.

Walking through waves of slurry is bad for cows and is usually caused by narrow passages or automatic scrapers, so producers need to pay attention to hygiene during housing. And daily footbathing is essential – the equivalent to post-milking teat dipping, said Mr Blowey.