Potential for Foot Rot
County Agent Update
April 4, 2018 | View PDF
With spring upon us, that means mud and muck. Those in the agriculture industry are thankful for the snow and moisture after last year’s drought. One of the downfalls of the mud is the challenge it creates for livestock producers; feeding, moving and maintaining animal health can be a challenge. One issue that can occur with livestock standing for a period of time in moist wet conditions is, foot rot. Foot rot is a sub-acute or acute necrotic (decaying) infectious disease of cattle. This disease normally starts in one foot, but can spread to other feet. This disease can cause lameness, decrease in weight and decrease in milk production for cows. Bulls with foot rot will be reluctant to breed and severely infected animals may need to be culled from the herd. Foot rot is treatable if it is caught before it spreads up into the foot and leg.
Mechanical injury or softening and thinning of the skin between the toes by puncture wounds or continuous exposure to wet conditions are necessary to provide entrance point for infectious agents. Injury is often caused by walking on rough surfaces; stony ground, sharp gravel, hard mud, ice or standing in a wet and muddy environment for a prolonged period of time. Feet that are infected with foot rot serve as the source of infection for other cattle by contaminating the environment, it is very important to treat this disease as soon as it is noticed. Treatment should always begin with cleaning and examining the foot to make sure that the lameness is due to foot rot and not another reason. Affected animals should be kept in a dry area until healed, using a topical treatment is needed and most cases require the use of systemic antimicrobial therapy. With livestock, we always want to prevent diseases if possible, pens should be scraped and grooed. Additional mud and manure should be removed from gathering areas; feed bunks, waterers and mineral blocks. Other preventive measures include the addition of organic and in-organic zinc to the feed or mineral mixes, zinc promotes healthy skin and hoof growth.
As producers, we know that sometimes diseases still can happen, even if all of the precautionary steps are taken, so here are the signs that you will see if a cow on your operation has foot rot;
- Extreme pain leading to sudden onset of lameness, which increases in severity as the disease progresses
- Acute swelling and redness of interdigital tissue
- Lesions of the interdigital space are often necrotic and have a foul odor
- Even distributed swelling around both digits and hairline of the hoof, leading to separation of the claws
- Loss of appetite
This disease can happen at any time of the year, with spring melting and mud it is important to be checking your livestock daily. This information was gathered from Oklahoma State University publication Foot Rot in Cattle.