Vet’s Voice: 2014: The year of foot rot
August 18, 2014
Seems like summer is rapidly evaporating, just like the ground moisture last week in the heat. Our area was a bit parched, but we received an unexpected rain shower. Unfortunately with the rain came some hail and wind. It always amazes me how the difference between feast and famine can be very short distances. We have no choice or control over how Mother Nature treats us, but we must be thankful for our blessing and helpful to our friends and neighbors who were less fortunate.
Every summer we have one problem which allows us to name the summer. In 2012 we had the year of the midge. This midge transported a virus which affected cattle and caused widespread death in our deer population. In our area 2013 was definately the year of pinkeye. After many outbreaks last year we have seen very few cases. This year would have to be the year of foot rot. I am not sure why this is happening, because we started the spring dry and then had a lot of moisture. Now we are dry again.
One of our veterinarians running the haul-in facility today told me tonight, "Must be a lot of foot rot in the country. We flipped fifteen cows on the tilt table today." This number is only the tip of the iceberg because I am sure many more are treated in the pasture. That is probably why we are having problems keeping darts for treatment guns on the shelf.
Foot rot is a common infection of feedlot and pasture cattle. The most common cause of the infection is the bacteria, Fusobacterium necrophorum. Other bacteria may also cause the infection. Usually the skin of the foot in injured or punctured. With the foot's normal defenses breeched, the bacteria enter and multiply causing the soft tissue of the foot to swell. This causes pain for the animal, resulting in lameness.
Usually the bacteria are sensitive to antibiotics. Most treat with a long-acting antibiotic. That is why we have a shortage of large darts. Usually one treatment will cure the problem if treated early. If the lameness persists we recommend the foot be examined. We flip these at the clinic and examine the bottom of the foot, then treat it with a simple foot wrap with a packet of antibiotic powder between the toes. We leave these on for four to five days. It is important not to leave the wrap on too long because it may affect the circulation to the toes. If the lameness persists, it may be the result of secondary arthritis. As these because chronic we sometimes remove one the claws surgically.
Many producers vaccinate their bulls to help prevent problems. Some herds with yearly problems will vaccinate cows and sometimes calves. In small calves at turnout we have seen strong reactions, so we recommend its use sparingly.
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If you have a problem in one pasture, you need to remove anything which will cause abrasions on the foot. Many times these are sharp stones or scrap metal near watering areas. Sometimes you may need to fence off mud holes and wallows to avoid animals standing in contaminated water. Wheat stubble and weed stems can also cause puncture wounds between the toes.
Foot rot is a common problem this summer. Early antibiotic treatment is usually successful, but it is very important to try to remove the hazards which injure the foot allowing the bacteria to enter. Visit with your veterinarian to discuss treatment options and keep adequate mineral in front of your cows. This will minimize your problems and increase your profits.