During winter time, in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa, we observe a higher incidence of bacterial-related lameness in dairy cows. The two major diseases in this category are digital dermatitis and interdigital dermatitis.
In the dry winter months, the concentration of bacteria in the wet puddles around the cribs and at the entrance of the parlour is higher. The risk of contamination is higher and, therefore, more cows go lame because of digital dermatitis.
Döpfer, D., Koopmans, A., Meijer, F.A., Szakáll, I., Schukken, Y.H., Klee, W., Bosma, R.B., Cornelisse, J.L., Van Asten, A.J. & Ter Huurne, A.A. 1997. Histological and bacteriological evaluation of digital dermatitis in cattle, with special reference to spirochaetes and Campylobacter faecalis. Veterinary Record. 140(24): 620–623. doi: 10.1136/vr.140.24.62
Digital dermatitis can be described as a skin infection on the hairline of the claws. Raw skin with a strawberry-like texture can be seen when you lift the foot and clean it lightly. In most instances, the lesion is situated on the heels and because of the severe pain, the cow tends to take more weight on the toes and less on the heels. This causes a more upright hoof angle and a higher heel that results in more manure build-up in the area where the lesion is.
Different stages of lesions
Digital dermatitis is common and responsible for 50% of all lameness, thus, hygiene plays a major role in curbing this disease. The lesions can be found in different stages. Some easier to treat and not as contagious, while others are more difficult to cure and highly contagious. Dr Dorté Döpher of the University of Wisconsin developed the M-stages. It is important to treat the M1 stage to prevent the spreading of the disease through the entire herd. It is also the only chance to relieve the cow from her pain. Once the lesion reaches the M4 stage, the treponeme bacteria persist and become impossible to treat.
Digital dermatitis can only be prevented with a good foot bath. The design and management of a foot bath will be discussed in next month’s column. The effective method of treatment is to run a foot bath. Any cow that still shows lameness after the foot bath can be treated individually, by cleaning the heels thoroughly and applying a hoof wrap.
Guest Writer & Consultant to DairySmid: Jaco de Bruin