Lameness Prevention with Proper Hoof Care

Published on Wed, 05/11/2022 - 11:13am

Lameness Prevention with Proper Hoof Care.

 By Maura Keller.

 Technology and equipment surrounding hoof care have come a long way over the years. Years ago, producers used such simple tools as rope and chisel for hoof care. Today, various types of specialty equipment, cleaning products, and data management tools are available to make trimming and hoof care safe for both the trimmer and the cow, while also keeping abreast of each cow’s hoof health.

“Product availability is aspect of hoof care that has seen significant achievements over recent years,” says Joya McCarthy at TJ Hoof Care. “The variety and functionality available of blocks, adhesives, wraps, sprays, gels, knives, and grinder wheels, is very encouraging. It’s great to see the hoof care industry committed to adapting and creating new products that can meet the needs of a variety of hoof trimmers.”

Travis and Joya McCarthy started TJ Hoof Care in September 2020 with the passion and desire to provide the cattle industry with hoof care services that revolve around attention to detail, a commitment to quality and animal welfare, providing knowledge and tools that equip the dairy to be effective in their role of their herd’s hoof care.

TJ Hoof Care uses state-of-the-art tools and equipment to optimize cow comfort and are always growing their knowledge base to make sure they are using the best products to promote the most effective healing process.

“We even took our commitment to the next level and created a hoof data management application called TJ Hoof Hub,” says Joya McCarthy. This mobile application is compatible with any iOS or Android smart device that will enable hoof trimmers to ditch pencil and paper and document their work digitally with ease. Specifically, TJ Hoof Hub allows hoof trimmers to manage all aspects of their business in one place – everything from customer information, scheduling, inventory, invoices, work documentation, reporting, integrations, and more.

“Documentation of high-quality data can enhance the hoof trimmer’s ability to be efficient and successful in their businesses while also providing the level of insights necessary to enable the farmers to be more efficient and effective with their management decisions relating to hoof health,” McCarthy says.

As McCarthy explains, the product has the capability to include photos for transparent and accurate healing tracking, monitor inventory, generate invoices, monitor schedules, generate insights and reports for hoof health trend monitoring, and provides access for the customers to monitor their herd’s hoof health as well.

“We believe that this tool will provide a level of transparency, accountability, and management efficiency that was not before possible for both the hoof trimmer and their dairies,” McCarthy says.

Brad Ingram, account manager, Vettec Animal Health, BoviBond and Diamond Farrier USA says that over the past several years hoof care has evolved in several different ways with producers seeing the correlation of cow comfort and production. As Ingram explains, hoof care is a large cow comfort factor that has an impact on production, conception, longevity, and multiple other areas as well.

“Education and technique are two areas that hoof care has evolved a lot with the aid of social media giving professional hoof trimmers the ability to share, compare and discuss issues and results,” Ingram says. “Another area that has made a lot of change is the timing or frequency of maintenance trimming. Maintenance trimming has become an obvious necessity that most producers have realized the return on investment in and have adapted to.” Midwestern Hoof Trimming School recommends maintenance trimming starting on pre fresh heifers at around 45 days prior to calving, 100 to 120 days in milk and for the longer lactations 150 days since last trim, and again at dry off.

In January 2021 Vettec became part of the Diamond family. Diamond offers a line of tools like knives, nippers, sharpening tools as well as the BoviBond line of 210ml blocking adhesive and high wear XL BoviBond Blocks and regular rubber blocks, which are comfortable slip-resistant flexible blocks that stand up well in all flooring conditions. When applied, the animal shows a natural gait and has a wear time sufficient enough to allow proper healing time.

Ongoing Education in Hoof Care
Save Cows Network Companies is an association of businesses influencing all aspects of the international, dairy hoof health industry including training, consulting, equipment, manufacturing, consumables, hoof care, trimming tools, research and analysis software.  

“We focus on innovation by offering educational opportunities, quality products, excellent customer service and a hoof health forum for dairy producers and agri-business professionals,” says Karl Burgi, founder and chairman of the board. “With over 30 years in the dairy industry, we continue to grow our network of employees, customers and consultants who share our mission to ‘Save Cows.’”

Burgi has been active in the hoof care field for over 30 years. In his early years, there was very limited research and information regarding hoof care available in the U.S. In some of the European countries, universities had made some effort in developing a hoof trimming method based on science.

“Searching for more information in 1995, I traveled to the Netherlands to learn about the ‘functional hoof trimming method’ which is based on the anatomy of the hoof and the bovine animal,” Burgi says. After returning home and implementing this method on dairy farms in south central Wisconsin, Burgi could see improved results within weeks with less lameness because of proper prevention and improved lame cow recovery.

“Since my initial exposure to more knowledge, so much more information has become available, which has improved hoof care worldwide,” Burgi says. Industry involvement in hoof trimming, networking with researchers, and in-field applications trials have yielded improvement of hoof trimming for today’s advanced dairy production systems.  

As Burgi explains, today, a well-implemented and executed hoof care program with a focus on prevention is crucial for animal well-being. “Infectious hoof lesions are managed by strong animal immune systems, superb hygiene and properly managed footbaths. Claw horn lesions are prevented through proper timed hoof trimming, cow comfort, correct walking surfaces, good stockmanship practices, early lameness identification and effective science-based lameness treatments,” Burgi says.

Of course, dairy farmers spend a lot of time and money managing things like nutrition, stocking density, foot bath composition, lock-up times, genetics, and more, all with the intention of creating a healthier, more comfortable, and more efficient environment for their cows.

“Hoof health is one of those things that the dairy aims to optimize when making these management decisions, but how can they know what management practices will be most effective if they don’t know what the issues are? Guessing is never an effective strategy, which is why we felt so compelled to create an application that can enable hoof data to be documented more efficiently,” McCarthy says. “Data entry takes time out of the day, and we understand how valuable time is, so we have pursued integrations with dairy herd management software companies to get our hoof health data synced into the dairy’s program automatically.”

McCarthy says that same of the most common mistake(s) producers makes as it relates to hoof care is one or a combination of the following things:
• Overcrowding –  leads to an increase in lesion occurrence
• Ineffective foot bath (or no foot bath) – leads to lesion recurrence and ineffective lesion prevention,
• Irregular hoof trimming schedule – leads to an increase in lesion occurrence, lesion recurrence, lesion severity escalation, and ineffective lesion prevention

“All of these things can be improved by having knowledge and insights as to what exactly the needs are for each herd specifically,” McCarthy says. “Access to quality data can enable dairies to understand what the best management practices would be in order to target their specific lesion trends. Monitoring this data over time can give the dairies insights on how to be proactive rather than reactive by understanding the cause and effect of management changes throughout the year.”

Burgi says that on the last 10 years hoof lesion date collection and analysis has greatly improved.

“We have great ways to measure hoof health and use the data to assist with management decisions. Analysis shows us that various factors, including transition and calving, heat stress, overcrowding, lying time, time away from pen, pen size, all influence lameness levels on farms,” Burgi says. “With the current knowledge it is imperative to ensure that functional hoof shape is at its best during the transition and calving period, peak production period and during periods when cows experience THI over 72.”

Zinc’s Role
Liz Trujillo, sales & marketing at Sirius, LLC (dba Hoof-Zink EZ liquid), says the company has been involved in the livestock animal business for over 46 years. The company’s approach to being a supplier has always been to research first for proof of product efficacy and then field trial research to confirm its effectiveness.

“In regard to Hoof-Zink, our first objective was to compare zinc’s antibacterial effect to the most common used footbath product, copper. We observed that zinc was just as antibacterial as copper and in some cases even more effective in killing the bacteria causing heal warts,” Trujillo says.  Zinc also was shown to have a larger pH range of effectiveness, making it soluble to pH6. Copper becomes insoluble at pH5, which means it is effective for a shorter period of time.

As Trujillo explains, zinc is required by every living organism, meaning the zinc in the resulting manure is utilized by the crops each year and will not accumulate in the soil, unlike copper.

“There is some research that shows zinc added to manure digesters increases methane production by the bacteria, so Hoof-Zink has really proved to be a win/win product,” Trujillo says. “It is very effective against hoof bacteria and it is a sustainable product because of plant utilization of the zinc each year.”

This last year Hoof-Zink has developed a liquid mixing delivery system for customers’ foot baths. Since Hoof-Zink is a concentrated liquid product, the company simply mixes the Hoof-Zink with water at the accurate rate of 5% by product weight with water and deliver to the bath. This insures its effectiveness.

Steps To Take
Hoof care is a complex issue and is not a simple task. As Burgi explains, the void in knowledge and understanding many times leads to a delay of action. At times the proper equipment, tools and supplies are not in place to deal with a lameness case and other times the urgency to deal with lameness does not reach the top of the task list for the day.

“The farms with low lameness do not tolerate lameness and have action plans in place,” Burgi says.

When Kevin Kronebusch and Leigh DeGroot first established ZeroLameness, LLC, they did so with the vision to develop a line of specialty products that would help producers in their goal of keeping their cows’ feet clean and healthy. ZeroLameness first developed its TunnelDipper, a line of foot baths that include everything from pre-cast, custom made concrete TunnelDippers to the more portable stainless steel TunnelDipper.

As Kronebusch explains, the company has worked on refining its TunnelDipper product over the years in order to offer a product that takes into consideration how a cow walks through a foot bath (to prevent an abundance of solution from spilling out before the rest of the herd walks through) to corrosive preventiveness of the product and surrounding concrete.

“Years ago we started looking at how could we make it perform better. We working more and massaged it and made a ton of improvements,” Kronebusch says. “We worked with plastic, concrete, and then moved on to stainless steel. We have never had an automated system because we found that for so many automated systems, if you don’t do visual inspection every day, you are going to have problems.”

Kronebusch and DeGroot also evaluated such things as the heaviness of the unit, what elements would prevent corrosiveness, spillage prevention designs, the costs to run the unit for each foot bath, and even the ideal length of the footbath.

The end result includes both custom, stationery and portable TunnelDipper products. When combined with the company’s MooTrax Energizer, a footbath additive that ionizes footbath treatments with zinc or copper sulfate, the TunnelDipper helps prevent lameness issues including warts, corns, and hoof rot.

“The person who is in charge of brining the cows to the parlor usually has to spank or holler or something with that last cow. Those cows that bad feet usually ended up getting punished for having bad feet and it really isn’t their fault,” Kronebusch says.

Therefore, in addition to proper clean foot baths, every dairy cow and dairy heifer should be evaluated three to eight weeks prior to calving and functionally trimmed if necessary to guarantee the best claw health at time of calving. “Environment, management and data dependent, there could be from zero to three additional assessments during the lactation,” Burgi says.

It also is important that lame cows are identified and treated daily to avoid extensive damage and future lameness reoccurrence. “To help recover claw horn lesions, blocks must be utilized. The farm must have proper treatment protocols in place to deal with infectious lesions,” Burgi says. “Treating lameness early and properly, yields prompt recoveries and improves animal well-being.”

In Trujillo’s experience, letting construction contractors that have not been properly trained by a hoof trimmer or veterinarian design and install a footbath is usually a mistake. “This plan or design should come from a hoof specialist, so it is most effective and helps keep footbath costs in the most economical range as possible,” Trujillo says. Also, using personnel not properly trained or unable to follow exact protocols to manage the footbath usually results in hit and miss results. “Accuracy of footbath product usage rates are very important and must be added correctly for best results.

As automation takes over more and more in the dairy industry, the Hoof-Zink team believes footbath systems will also follow this trend. They have already seen this on a number of dairies.

“From simple mixing and product delivery to completely automated systems, this will be the future,” Trujillo says.

Ingram adds that producers should strive for the lowest rate of lameness possible as the loss/cost associated with lameness and fixing it is more than the cost of prevention. “Animal welfare is also a consideration, let’s not forget the cows that we all work for that deserve to have the best care possible provided to them,” Ingram says. “There is lots of talk about cost and profit, but many of our careers rely solely on the cows and therefore deserve the best we can offer.”