Foot rot typically occurs in Warmer weather, usually in late spring or summer. It is a problem which has affected almost every farmer at one time or another, and can lead to a loss of profits for farmers.
What is Foot rot?
Foot rot is a sudden and often very severe inflammation between the ‘toes’ of a cow. It is caused by a bacteria called fusobacterium necrophorum bacterium.
This is a germ which is ever present in our environment. It is essentially an infection causing the death of tissues around the animal's hoof.
- In the early stages of Foot rot an animal tends to become lame, almost overnight.
- They are in severe pain, usually in one foot, and their foot has swelled up and is often foul smelling.
- The first stage usually just means the cow is lame, though if left untreated the second stage will develop. This stage involved the interdigital space (between the animals digits/’toes’), which becomes severely inflamed with pus and necrosis. This is what causes the foul smell associated with foot rot. If a cow has been lame for a long period without the second stage of the infection developing, it is unlikely to be suffering from foot rot.
- In severe cases ulcers, abscesses, fractures and abrasions are also to be found near the infected area.
As the area heals following the infection, excessive corn like growths and ingrown nail like features can also begin to grow, a farmer need be vigilant if this occurs to prevent further infection. In cases of foot rot it can have huge adverse effects on livestock. Dairy cows can be seen to have lower milk production, a loss of appetite resulting in lower weight gains, Fever, and a loss of condition.
To help prevent your animal becoming infected, it is strongly advised to carry out regular hoof cleaning. Vigilance is key here, the early foot rot is spotted the easier it is to combat.
Regular checking of animals for lameness, and investigating newly lame animals is essential in this game. Supplements can also be given to cows and have been proven to help its prevention significantly. Feeding low levels of Chlortetracycline can be carried out, upon a vets advice of course.
Whilst zinc supplements can also be given, are known to help improve hoof integrity and skin health. Any cuts noticed near an animal’s foot should be cleaned as soon as possible, and treated with an antibacterial wash. Be sure to keep animals out of pens where wood shavings or sawdust is used as bedding. This can cause cuts to the cow’s foot and lead to foot rot infections.
Pastures and Muddy areas are known to allow the build-up of the organisms causing the infection. It is advised to not re-graze cows on pastures from the previous year, if an infection was present in the herd then also. It is also advised to keep the herd off wet, muddy lands.
When your cattle have become infected, sometimes it’s just easier to go to the vet. They will provide you with the appropriate antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Quick action is needed in combatting foot rot, as it is a deep tissue infection which can become very serious indeed. Antimicrobial therapy has also seen great success, and is provided again by the vet.
Finally, cattle suffering from foot rot, or treated for foot rot, should be kept in dry areas until the infection has fully cleared.