New Research Studies Compares Footbath Solutions

Many dairy farmers use a range of different footbath solutions to help control lameness, often switching from one to the other with little difference in performance. Many solutions arrive on the market with the promise of treating all lameness problems but fail to live up to expectations. So how do farmers decide what will work against their lameness problems, especially the complex digital dermatitis problem? One option is to listen to other farmers. However as every farm is different often what works on one farm will frustratingly not work on another. Another option is to consider independent peer reviewed scientific evidence.

One such highly respected source of evidence is the Journal of Dairy Science. It recently published a peer reviewed article titled, ‘Effect of a tea tree oil and organic acid footbath solution on digital dermatitis in dairy cows’, by the University of Kentucky. This robust on farm study used a split footbath so that two different solutions could be compared scientifically with genetics, yield, lactation etc. being equal for both products. The study compared Copper Sulphate to Hoofsure Endurance. Both products reduced M1 and M2 digital dermatitis by 50%. There was no statistical significant difference between the two products.

This is the first time an alternative safer footbath solution has matched the efficacy of Copper Sulphate in a split footbath farm trial and had the results accepted within a peer reviewed process.

To maintain study design no other treatments were used. In practice it is strongly recommended that washing of the feet either in parlour and or with a pre wash footbath is carried out as this has been shown to improve footbath efficacy by 2.5 times.

A similar split footbath farm study carried out over the last 6 months is nearing completion.  It compares Formalin and Hoofsure Endurance. Provisional results from this study indicate that there will be little difference between Hoofsure Endurance and Formalin.

These results would indicate that the footbathing system is more important than product used in them. Within all systems there will be flare ups from time to time but increased footbathing frequency, increased spot spraying etc. can get the problems under control again.

Various studies have shown that approx. 90% of footbaths are not being used at the right dilution rate, depth and frequency. If the dilution rate is too strong, it can actually make active DD encyst into long term chronic cases, plus the bath will cost too much. In various studies these long term chronic cases have been discounted, the latest thinking from leading research Dorte Dopfer at University of Wisconsin is that these are actually a reservoir of infection. If the dilution is too weak, the solution will not work. Footbaths should therefore be calibrated by measuring length, width and depth in cm’s and divide by 1000 to get litres. Depth – cows can kick out 400ml per pass through footbaths so they need to be filled deeper to ensure the last cows through the bath are done effectively. Frequency – many studies have shown the more often cows, dry cows and heifers are footbathed the less lameness there will be. For best results ideally milking cows should be footbathed every day.

For more information, contact Tommy Armstrong on FREEPHONE 0800 3284982 or 077 2010 1444