A study of hoof diseases in dairy cattle
Nessa, Anne Signy T.
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Hoof diseases are a considerable problem from both an economical and animal welfare point of view. It leads to decreased production and reproduction performance and is a common cause of early culling. The causes of hoof diseases are multifactorial, involving management, nutrition, genetics, housing/floor system and claw trimming. Today free stall housing with concrete flooring is the dominating keeping system. This way of keeping is both cost and labour effective and allows a large number of cows on a small area. The concrete flooring with designated resting places and alleys for walking are hard to keep clean and dry. As a result digital dermatitis is now one of the most common causes of lameness in dairy cows. The most relevant hoof diseases in dairy cows in loose house systems on concrete flooring are digital dermatitis, interdigital dermatitis, interdigital phlegmon, laminitis and sole ulcers. Digital dermatitis is a bacterial infection of the epidermis of the hoof skin and is believed to be of polymicrobial origin. Repeated antimicrobial treatment on the affected areas is a good treatment protocol, but it is important to also make adjustments in the environment. For treatment and prevention regular footbaths show good results. Vaccines are now available against digital dermatitis, but the full effect is not yet fully tested. Interdigital dermatitis is a superficial inflammation of the interdigital epidermis and corresponds to wet eczema. As a consequence of the increased blood circulation in the bulb area extra horn tissue is produced, and this can cause splits. Interdigital dermatitis is typically seen on farms where there is a lot of humidity and mud. It is treated by regular footrimming and removal of the excess horny tissue, in combination with hoofbaths. Keeping the stables dry and clean is an efficient preventative measure together with regular hoofbaths. Interdigital Phlegmon is an infection of the dermal layers of the interdigital skin caused by bacteria. The skin appears tough and reddened and claws look like they are pushed apart. Smaller lesions can be treated with footbaths with astringents, like copper sulphate or formalin solutions, or by removing the overgrowths. Larger lesions are treated by antibiotics together with warm baths and bandages. Laminitis is a metabolic disorder of the corium, and the inflammation can involve the whole corium. As a consequence the hoof wall turns convex and the sole gets discoloured. Recommended treatment is trimming of the hoof so that the weight is shifted from the affected claw to the healthy claw. In cases of acute laminitis other emergency interventions might be necessary, like counteracting a potential endotoxic shock reaction or make the animal move around. Chronic laminitis is treated with functional hoof trimming, but in some cases the structural changes in the hoof are irreversible and cannot be corrected. Prevention of laminitis requires a healthy management, including feeding and a healthy hoof care regime. Metabolic diseases like rumen acidosis are an important predisposing factor for laminitis and should be avoided. Regular hoofbaths and a proper hooftrimming regime are also important. Sole ulcer is when the horn is damaged and the underlying corium is exposed. To treat sole ulcers the main point is to permit new horn formation by minimizing the weight-bearing from the affected area on to the other claw. This can be done by adding a block to provide relief or to use a sock on the healthy claw. To avoid sole ulcers it is important with good hoof trimming on a regular basis and maintaining both claws at the same level. For all these five diseases hoof bathing together with regular hoof trimming seems to be the most effective treatment and also a good preventative measure. These measures combined with good management and care by the farmer are the key answers to a healthy livestock. We must also bear in mind that genetics is a factor to some degree and should be considered when choosing animals for further breeding.