LICENSING antibiotics for use in footbaths to treat digital dermatitis should be a priority for the Veterinary Medicines Directorate until alternatives have been trialled, according to Richard Laven.
"Antibiotic footbaths are the treatment of choice for producers with a mild to moderate digital dermatitis problem. Although antibiotics have been used in this way for more than 10 years, none have been licensed."
Lack of a licence has milk withdrawal implications, says Mr Laven. "In theory producers should observe a seven-day milk withdrawal period when using antibiotic footbaths but this is uneconomic.
"If antibiotic footbaths were licensed it is likely that the milk withdrawal period would be considerably shorter than this. At ADAS Bridgets we did a study on cows standing in an erythromycin foot-bath for 10 minutes which showed no significant contamination of milk.
"VMD should license these products on short-term basis until alternatives can be investigated."
This winter, ADAS Bridgets will be carrying out research into antibiotic alternatives for the control of digital dermatitis such as copper sulphate, zinc sulphate, peroxides and organic acids.
"Given the sensitivity over antibiotic use we must not be seen to be using high amounts. Alternatives are also likely to prove cheaper than antibiotics."
A questionnaire has also been sent to vets to ask what alternatives they use and their views on effectiveness, but Mr Laven is also interested to hear producers views (01962-779765). *