23 July 1999


PVC shoes have proven to be a big advance in treating lameness in dairy cows and improving their welfare.

But they must be fitted correctly to maximise benefits, advises Glos vet Roger Blowey.

The findings of a study involving 90 Cowslips pvc shoes, completed by Mr Bloweys practice, the Wood Vet Group, were reported in the Vet Record (Jun 5). Those shoes which fell off naturally stayed on for an average of 71 days. Where it was necessary to remove shoes, they stayed on for over three months.

This was long enough to allow most lesions, such as sole ulcers to heal, says Mr Blowey. "Cowslips have had a major impact on my approach to lame cows."

They are suitable for any cow with an exposed sore after treating for a sole ulcer or heel abscess, and provides her with a weight bearing surface.

"These shoes are easier and quicker to put on than blocks, so are more likely to be used. They are also cheaper than some of the blocks available.

"When shoes are used early on in a case of lameness the overall recovery rate in lame cows is much faster."

When a heel abscess was re-examined only 10 days after applying a shoe, the rate of healing was spectacular, adds Mr Blowey (see pic 1).

But ensure shoes are fitted securely so they stay on for a good period of time, explains Mr Blowey.

Because the sound claw is often trimmed down to size to fit the shoe, there is no need to remove shoes manually for several weeks.

However, the study revealed that occasionally Cowslips remained in place for as long as 150 days. "But I recommend that they are removed before this in most cases," says Mr Blowey.

The secret of getting Cowslips to stick is to prepare the foot thoroughly (see pic 2). Although the instructions talk of cleaning the foot with acetone and other solvents, simply scraping it thoroughly clean and dry, using the curved edge of the hoof knife, seems adequate.

However, make sure you clean the inside wall of the hoof. Mr Blowey advises forcing the claws apart with a roll of paper towel (see pic 3).

When the foot is clean, mix the Cowslip liquid and powder together inside the shoe (see pic 4). The powder and liquid are in individual packs, conveniently weighed out for ease of use, so you always get the proportions correct. Mr Blowey believes the best way to achieve good adhesion is by continuing to mix this paste until it shows early signs of setting.

When it starts to go slightly viscous, spread it up over the shoes inner sides, then force the shoe well back to the heel of the claw (see pic 5).

However, the whole length of the sound claw must be well supported, as shown, to avoid the cow tipping back on her heel. When she is tipped back this wears the shoes heel quickly and makes walking uncomfortable.

The major advantage of Cowslips is their ease of application, the simplicity with which powder and liquid are mixed together in the shoe and the speed of glue set, he says.

Previous solvent powder mixes took longer to solidify and this deterred use of blocks. "Some block glues need heat from a hairdryer to set them in winter," he says.

"Cowslips also encase the whole foot, helping them stay in place as the glue sets. This stops them slipping back along the sole which can happen with blocks.

"By encasing the whole foot and attaching the shoe to the wall as well as the sole it transmits weight bearing to the foot wall. The wall should bear weight, as it would normally, rather than the sole as can happen when blocks are fitted." &#42

See more