Hoof expert says routine trimming can really pay off
The impact of the long winter has not gone unnoticed with Donegal-based hoof trimmer Francis Burns.
"There's been up to a 50pc increase in digital dermatitis on many farms simply due to the fact that cows were kept in longer than usual," said Mr Burns, who runs Millfarm Hoofcare.
Trimming over 10,000 cows a year, Mr Burns is well established in the business, with a €30,000 fully hydraulic crate.
"Farmers won't be thinking too much about digital dermatitis at this time of the year since it is really a problem that is associated with housing but I'm a firm believer in preventative care all year around," he said.
"Dermatitis loves dark sheds with high humidity. So heavily stocked sheds with poor ventilation and lighting are good breeding grounds for the fungus. I'd be advising farmers to power-hose out their sheds every summer to try to remove residues of infection for the coming winter.
"Slurry is also a no-no, so passageways need to be kept really well scraped. The research is still on-going on this pathogen, but there is a belief that the infectious organisms can hover up to a foot above slurry so preventing slatted tanks becoming over-full is also a good idea.
"Foot bathing is another key measure. The most common question that farmers ask me is how often they should foot bath. I always reply by asking them how often they teat dip – that's how often I think it should be done.
"I recommend a Dutch product called Intra Hoof-fit, which is the only product that doesn't contain antibiotics that is proven to kill dermatitis. Blue-stone (copper sulphate) or formalin only deadens the wound in my experience. In addition, I don't think it is a good idea to expose any lame animal to formalin because it is so severe on open wounds. It is a known carcinogenic.