Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Footbathing

Contributor(s): Nick Bell , Jon Huxley

Massey School of Veterinary Science logo

Purpose of footbathing

  • Historically footbaths have been used intermittently to treat active digital dermatitis (DD) lesions (M2). (Click here for details on DD and the grading system). However, the use of antibiotic footbaths should be a treatment of last resort and non-antibiotic foot baths are unlikely to achieve cure rates comparable to that of targeted, licensed, topical antibiotic treatment. 
  • In fact, some experts suggest using non-antibiotic foot baths on cows with active (M2) lesions encourages the chronic stage of digital dermatitis (M4), in the absence of an effective treatment.
  • Current evidence suggests that regular foot bathing is effective at:
    • Aiding the recovery of early, superficial infections of a subclinical nature. 
      • These could be early cases of digital dermatitis (M1) or Foul-in-the-foot.
    • Preventing new infections such as digital dermatitis and foul-in-the-foot.
    • Preventing re-activating digital dermatitis lesions (M4 re-activating to M4.1).
    • Preventing heel horn erosion and thereby improving general claw condition.
    • Cleaning mud, slurry and other environmental material from skin and the interdigital space, reducing the risk of skin damage.
  • Some farmers report a benefit of using formalin foot baths to harden claws. 
    • While this hardening effect is still debated, there is evidence to show formalin treated horn contains less moisture. 
      • The effect is likely to be superficial layers of hoof only.
    • Over-hardening is a much reported and overstated adverse side-effect of formalin foot bathing.  It is the author’s opinion that reduced moisture is a welcome side-effect for most housed cows in UK conditions. It may be the case that this side-effect is problematic in dry environments, whereby too much moisture loss could reduce force dissipation within the hoof. 
  • The regularity of foot bathing depends on many factors to do with cow, farm, severity of disease and type of biocide being used as a disinfectant. 
  • The principle “as frequent as necessary to maintain control” should be adopted in most cases, starting with high frequency in conditions of high disease and high challenge.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that foot bathing can entirely eliminate infection from a herd, ie it should be considered a routine control measure only.

Choice of biocide

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Frequency of footbathing

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Footbathing all groups of infected cattle

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Footbath design

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Managing foot baths

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMed Resource.
  • Bell N J, Potterton S, Blowey R, Whay H R et al (2014) The use of disinfectant foot-bathing agents for the control of bovine digital dermatitis in dairy cattle. Livestock 19 (1) pp 6–13.
  • Cook N B, Rieman J, Gomez A & Burgi K (2012) Observations on the design and use of footbaths for the control of infectious hoof disease in dairy cattle. The Veterinary Journal 193 (3) pp 669–673. 
  • Laven R A & Logue D N (2006) Treatment strategies for digital dermatitis for the UK. Veterinary Journal 171 (1) pp 79–88.
  • Laven R A & Hunt H (2002) Evaluation of copper sulphate, formalin and peracetic acid in footbaths for the treatment of digital dermatitis in cattle. Veterinary Record 151 (5) pp 144–146.

Other sources of information

  • Chesterton R N (2013) A foot bath design for large grazing herds. 17th International Symposium and 9th International Conference on Lameness in Ruminants. Bristol Marriott City Centre Hotel, Bristol, UK.
  • Dyson S, Armstrong T, Allen T, Allen N et al (2013) Suspected chemical burn on the digital skin of dairy cows following foot bathing with 5% formalin solution. Proceedings of the 17th International Symposium and 9th International Conference on Lameness in Ruminants. Bristol Marriott City Centre Hotel, Bristol, UK.


ADDED