Zinpro Corporation recently hosted a First Step Academy training program in Germany to promote increased understanding about digital dermatitis (DD) in Europe and to share effective strategies to manage this common infectious foot disease in dairy herds.
Digital dermatitis often leads to lameness, which decreases milk production and fertility rates in dairy cattle.
Industry experts from Europe and the U.S. provided recommendations and facilitated training workshops focused on how to detect, prevent and treat the disease at Haus Düsse, an agricultural training center near Dusseldorf, Germany, where Andreas Pelzer, the center’s dairy department head, presented an overview on heifer housing in Germany. Pelzer said farmers need to place greater emphasis on heifer management in order to help decrease the incidence of DD. Andrea Fiedler, DVM, a German veterinarian, also cautioned against a tendency to over-rely on footbathing as a prevention technique.
Many dairy operations in Europe and the U.S. have no protocol for bringing in new heifers and little awareness about the need to begin managing for DD in young stock, said Arturo Gomez, Ph.D., DVM, dairy veterinarian – Europe, Zinpro Corporation.
“Both heifer care and cow care are crucial to managing DD on a dairy,” Gomez said. “In particular, research has shown that a greater emphasis on improved heifer nutrition and hygiene management can greatly improve animal performance and decrease susceptibility to DD later in life.”
Digital dermatitis develops from multiple risk factors subsequent to a weakened skin barrier. Improved mineral nutrition can bolster the skin’s integrity and fortify its function as a barrier against the disease, said Christoph Mülling, Ph.D., DVM, professor of veterinary anatomy, University of Leipzig, Germany. He also noted that improper footbathing practices will not decrease the incidence of DD, but rather could damage the skin and impair its barrier function.
Throughout the event, many speakers emphasized the need to apply a multi-pronged approach to DD management, including footbathing, hoof trimming and topical treatments, in addition to improving hygiene, housing and nutritional practices. Participants in the First Step Academy program received training on effective footbath design, location and management. They were also able to receive instruction on the DD Check App, a new Zinpro resource that helps dairy producers identify, record and predict DD. The app is available at no cost on iPhone and iPad devices through the App Store (search “Zinpro”).