Cow hoof rot is serious business. When left undetected and untreated, it can cause your Jersey cattle to become lame. Up to 20 percent of beef and dairy cattle that develop cow hoof rot end up lame. Once that happens, it can be a difficult journey getting your Jersey cow healthy again.
Hoof rot is a contagious disease that affects cloven-hoofed mammals. When it first starts, cow foot rot starts between the claws of the hoof and can later spread to other parts of the foot. It causes painful inflammation of the foot and eventual lameness.
If you fail to treat your Jersey cows when they develop cow hoof rot, the condition can become chronic. Once that happens, it becomes more difficult to treat it with every new infection.
Cows that become lame underperform. If you rely on your Jersey cows to produce raw milk, lameness can affect their production. That’s one of many reasons why it’s best to try to prevent cow hoof rot from happening in the first place. When prevention isn’t possible, fast treatment is your next best option.
Why do cattle get cow hoof rot?
Bacteria causes cow hoof rot. There are several kinds of bacteria that can lead to the painful condition, but Fusobacterium necrophorum is the most common. The bacteria build up in barnyards, exercise runs, mudholes, and pastures – all the places your cow spends the most time.
Your Jersey cow can have Fusobacterium necrophorum and other bacteria on their hooves without developing cow hoof rot. It isn’t until they injure their foot or hoof that the bacteria enter their system and wreak havoc. It can be easy for cattle to scrape their hooves on rough surfaces, especially in excessively muddy or wet conditions.
Another way dangerous bacteria can enter your Jersey cow’s system is if they go from super wet and muddy conditions to extremely dry conditions. Such a quick transition can cause your cow’s hooves to become chapped and dry, cracking. Once they crack open, they can let bacteria inside.
Symptoms of hoof rot
Cow hoof rot can be difficult to spot in the early stages. Some of the symptoms of hoof rot mimic those of other foot conditions. Digital dermatitis, affectionately called hairy heel warts, can look very similar to foot rot. The difference between hairy heel wart and foot rot is digital dermatitis affects only the skin in the heel bulb area up to the dewclaw area of your cow’s foot.
Another difference is digital dermatitis doesn’t cause a foul odor, whereas cow hoof rot does. Here are some other signs your Jersey cow may have footrot:
- Bilateral swelling of the tissues around the hairline and coronary band of the hoof. The swelling can separate the claws abnormally.
- Decreased appetite. If your Jersey cow seems disinterested in her food, or is eating less than usual, that can be an indication she’s unwell.
- Elevated body temperature. Most veterinarians consider a temperature of 103 or greater to signal a fever in cattle.
- Extreme pain. Your Jersey cow may resist walking or standing on all four feet. Many cows refuse to put weight on the affected foot.
- Necrotic lesions. The sores appear in the space between your cow’s digits. They will give off a foul odor.
If your Jersey cow shows any of these signs, it’s time to call your vet for a checkup. The longer you wait, the harder it is to treat.
Cattle footrot treatment
Cattle footrot treatment works once your Jersey cow is diagnosed. That’s the good news about this painful condition. The earlier you start treatment, the better the outcome.
Tetracycline antibiotics are the most common cattle footrot treatment. Your veterinarian can evaluate your Jersey cow to ensure footrot is the culprit, then prescribe the proper dosage level. Sometimes, you also must rub sterilized rope or twine between your cow’s toes to remove necrotic tissue. After you remove the damaged tissue, a topical antimicrobial can be applied.
Never treat your Jersey cow for cattle foot rot without consulting your veterinarian. If you use the wrong methods, you can make the condition – and the pain your cow experiences – worse.
How to prevent cow hoof rot
Keeping your Jersey cattle’s environment clean is the best way to prevent cow hoof rot. Keeping your lots and other common areas free of hard objects goes a long way in making sure your Jersey cows don’t injure themselves, increasing their susceptibility to infection. You can cover any rough surfaces with clay or cured composted manure.
Speaking of manure, make sure you remove it regularly. Other things you can do to keep your Jersey cow’s environment sanitary:
- Maximize drainage in lots, near feed bins, and around water tanks.
- Place slabs along feeding bins and water tanks.
- Promote drainage with composted manure or soil mounds.
Nutrition’s role in footrot prevention
Good nutrition can go a long way in helping your Jersey cow ward off cattle foot rot. Ensure your Jersey cattle have adequate levels of vitamins A, D, and zinc. Other dietary measures include feeding nutrients that promote good bone and tissue health.
Give your Jersey cow a pedicure
Just kidding. Sort of. Footbaths are a great way to keep your Jersey cow’s feet happy, healthy, and foot-rot-free. Footbaths are incredibly effective at controlling chronic cases of footrot and other cow hoof diseases.
Make sure your cow’s footbath is located on a level surface in an area where she regularly travels. The exit lane of your milking parlor is an excellent choice for placement. Make sure the footbath is 10 to 12 feet long, at least 2 feet wide, and a minimum of 4 inches deep. Change the footbath solution after 100 to 300 uses.
Happy, healthy Jersey cows
Regular checks of your Jersey cows are one of the best things you can do to keep them happy and healthy. Repeatedly treating your cattle for cow hoof rot can get expensive. Prevention is your best tool for keeping maintenance costs low.
- Integrated Step Selection Analysis: bridging the gap between resource selection and animal movement, Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Fusobacterium necrophorum: a ruminal bacterium that invades liver to cause abscesses in cattle, S. Tadepalli et al. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Tetracyclines, ClinicalKey. Accessed March 11, 2022.
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