In the first three articles of this series, I focused predominantly on how mechanical lameness is caused. The area that I haven’t touched on until now is bacterial lameness.
These lesions are the result of bacterial infections. Examples of conditions causing bacterial lameness are foot rot and digital dermatitis. In general, it is easier to treat bacterial lameness than mechanical lameness. Most of the time, a footbath is enough to sort out digital dermatitis. In the case of foot rot, a combination of topical and systemic treatment is effective, provided one takes action as soon as it is observed. Digital dermatitis is a big problem in the dry months of the year and I will spend more time on it in a future article.
1a&b. White line lesion visible after balancing the claws.
2a. Some of the loose horn removed around the lesion.
2b. All loose horn removed around the lesion. A sharp hoof knife and skilled trades person is required to have the result like this.
The reason why some cows appear to recover slowly or become ‘repeats’, lies in the treatment procedure for mechanical lameness.
The three main lesions found are sole ulcers, white line lesions, and toe ulcers. These lesions all appear on the hoof capsule. There are always secondary anaerobic bacteria involved. This condition must not be confused with bacterial lameness, for the origin in this case is mechanical insult. The aerobic bacteria lie so deep inside the claw that a footbath remedy cannot reach them. Therefore, a footbath is not effective for these lesions.
Cows with these mechanical lesions tend not to recover quickly because they don’t receive the correct treatment. The only way to treat these lesions would be to pick up the foot and pare away all loose horn. Doing this will expose the anaerobic bacteria to oxygen. Trained and experienced practitioners are needed, and specialised equipment must be used.
It often happens that the same kind of lesion occurs a few weeks later on the opposite foot. It usually affects the same claw of the opposite foot. Then the farmer remembers that a specific cow was lame, but does not necessarily remember which foot it was. This gives rise to the impression that the cow has not recovered or has become lame again.
These lesions are the result of bacterial infections.
Image Source: margarita88
Guest Writer & Consultant to DairySmid: Jaco de Bruin