Research shows foot-bath length can affect lameness levels

Increasing dairy cow foot-bath length to a minumum of 3.5m could help cut digital dermatitis, according to new research.

Lameness data collected by XL Vets’ practice Shepton Vets from 25 dairy units over four years, shows those farms that improved foot-bath length to meet this rule saw 2-2.5 times the reduction in total lameness compared with those that didn’t.

See also: View a picture guide to setting up a dairy cow footbath

The farms involved ranged in size from 80 to over 800 cows and were predominantly housed systems, milked twice a day. The farms had a range of foot-bath routines and mostly used copper sulphate or formalin disinfectant. As is typical across all UK dairy farms, up to 50% of lameness problems were caused by digital dermatitis (DD).

DD is a highly contagious, erosive infection usually affecting the skin on the bulbs of the heel. Estimates put the cost per case at £120 a cow. Foot-bathing has a key role to play in preventing the spread of DD, making the foot tissue more resistant to pathogens and reducing bacteria challenge.