Lameness Issue: Wrap Those Feet

Lame cows can cost producers money in treatment and lost production. ( Farm Journal )

Lameness can be a critical issue on dairy farms.The 2014 USDA National Animal Health Monitoring Study showed that at any given time, 16.8% of cows experience lameness on a dairy. Proper management, including regular hoof trimming, can help prevent some of the issues related to lame-ness. This makes hoof trimmers one of the best experts when it comes to hoof care and lameness prevention.

A University of Kentucky study surveyed 116 hoof trimmers to gather their opinions about foot disorders and the value of their prevention. The results of the study were published in the September 2018 edition of the Journal of Dairy Science.


The UK study found that the treatment cost per case was highest for toe ulcers, sole ulcers, white line disease and thin soles and least for foot rot and digital dermatitis, see below.


While it had the least treatment impact per incident, digital dermatitis was the most common foot disorder of the cases treated in the past year, and toe ulcers and thin soles represented the fewest number of cases treated.

When it comes to differences between large and small herds, hoof trimmers that served mostly herds with more than 500 cows saw sole ulcers more often than trimmers that visited smaller dairies. Conversely, digital dermatitis was more prevalent on smaller operations.


There were regional effects as well, such as a larger incidence of sole ulcers in the Northeast compared to other regions.

Respondents were also asked which disorder was associated with the greatest cost to the dairy. Those costs included treatment and labor costs, a reduction in milk yield and lower reproductive performance.

Although it has the lowest treatment cost, digital dermatitis cases had the highest total cost per case. Thin soles had the lowest cost per case.


Digital dermatitis, or hairy warts, is one of the most prevalent hoof diseases in freestall barns due to the wet and dirty conditions surrounding the feet of many of the cows in these facilities. Discussion has centered on whether it is best to wrap the affected foot or just treat the lesion and leave it exposed.

A study at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine examined which practice was more effective at treating digital dermatitis.

In the University of Wisconsin study, 162 Holsteins were diagnosed with heel warts. After hooves were trimmed and cleaned by a professional hoof trimmer, lesions were treated either with a topical spray treatment containing chlortetracycline or a non-antibiotic gel. Cows were either bandaged or non-bandaged by the same veterinarian.

Wounds were examined and scored weekly, as was locomotion. Healing was significantly higher for bandaged cows than it was for non-bandaged cows. Lesions were significantly less likely to transition to more serious cases in cows that were bandaged. With regard to locomotion, bandaging had no effect. However, wound size was much larger for cows with locomotion scores falling between 3 and 5, than it was for cows with lower scores.