Vet’s Voice: Dealing with lameness issues | TSLN.com

Vet’s Voice: Dealing with lameness issues

Dave Barz, DVM

For the July 16, 2011 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

I hate to say it, but my lawn is brown and dry and I could use some rain. There is flooding in some areas; others have received a summer’s worth of rain in one night; but I’m starting to dry out. The heat and humidity make outside work stressful, but the pastures and crops still look pretty good. Every day we see lame cows, calves and bulls at the clinic. This summer it has been a frequent problem.

Foot rot has been the most common diagnosis through the years. It causes sudden swelling, heat and inflammation of the foot; usually one claw is more affected. Foot rot is caused by several opportunistic bacteria, but the most common is Fusobacterium necrophorum. This is an anaerobic bacteria which grows best in the absence of oxygen. Usually the animal gets an abrasion or puncture on the soft tissue of the foot, which allows the causative agent entry into body and infection progresses.

Good husbandry practices are the best means of prevention. Healthy feet are less apt to crack. When cattle spend a lot of time in the water or mud, their feet become soft. When the temperature warms, mud dries and forms a sharp, abrasive surface which damages the feet. F. necrophorum commonly lives in mud and manure and easily enters lesions on the foot. If there is a common drinking area for livestock, it may help to add a concrete apron around the tank. Sharp rocks and wire must also be policed from the area.

Adequate nutrition is important to good foot health. The biggest issues in lameness are selenium, copper and zinc deficiencies. If foot rot is a herd-wide problem, visit with a nutritionist to decide if additional zinc or copper are needed. Not only will a good mineral program help with foot health, but it should also help the herd’s reproductive efficiency and overall immunity.

Some producers use vaccines for foot rot. We have several producers that vaccinate their herd before turnout every year and then vaccinate the calves in the fall. Data shows they treated 10-15 percent before vaccination, after vaccination they rarely treat an animal.

The earlier an animal is treated in the course of the disease, the better their chance of recovery. Penicillin has been the treatment of choice for many years, and I still use it a lot. The only problem with this treatment is it may need to be boostered in a day or two. In our area a dart gun has become the replacement for a good cowboy. This requires low volumes of antibiotics for treatment because darts hold a limited volume. I have issues with Beef Quality Assurance (BQA), the dart, and the actual amount of drug injected from the dart into the animal.

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Long-acting products have be recommended because there should be no need for a booster or re-treatment. Long-acting tetracyclines work well, but may cause a tissue reaction if injected improperly and require a relatively large dose. Excede gives a seven-day tissue level. This product is expensive and usually reserved for bulls or calves. Micotil is used by some of our producers for treatment. We recommend they have the animal in excellent restraint to avoid self-injection and never use it in a dart gun.

Many of the animals we see at the clinic have had a treatment, or maybe two, on the ranch. We tip these animals on the tilt-table and find sole abscesses, toe cracks, punctures and heal necrosis which can be treated. Sometimes the initial foot rot has migrated into the joint and we are forced to surgically remove the claw. Other times radiographs are needed to help diagnose arthritis in joints other than the foot. If a lame critter doesn’t improve with one treatment, it is best to re-examine the animal to be sure of the treatment before re-treating.

About 75 percent of lamenesses are a result of foot rot. Untreated it can result in poor weight gains, decreased breeding efficiency and early culling. The cost of treatment is small compared to the loss of a bull or cow’s future in the herd. Visit with your veterinarian, nutritionist or extension specialist to examine the husbandry and treatment practices for your herd. Preventing lameness will result in more pounds of calf to sell and more cows pregnant, ultimately improving the cowherd’s overall efficiency.

I hate to say it, but my lawn is brown and dry and I could use some rain. There is flooding in some areas; others have received a summer’s worth of rain in one night; but I’m starting to dry out. The heat and humidity make outside work stressful, but the pastures and crops still look pretty good. Every day we see lame cows, calves and bulls at the clinic. This summer it has been a frequent problem.

Foot rot has been the most common diagnosis through the years. It causes sudden swelling, heat and inflammation of the foot; usually one claw is more affected. Foot rot is caused by several opportunistic bacteria, but the most common is Fusobacterium necrophorum. This is an anaerobic bacteria which grows best in the absence of oxygen. Usually the animal gets an abrasion or puncture on the soft tissue of the foot, which allows the causative agent entry into body and infection progresses.

Good husbandry practices are the best means of prevention. Healthy feet are less apt to crack. When cattle spend a lot of time in the water or mud, their feet become soft. When the temperature warms, mud dries and forms a sharp, abrasive surface which damages the feet. F. necrophorum commonly lives in mud and manure and easily enters lesions on the foot. If there is a common drinking area for livestock, it may help to add a concrete apron around the tank. Sharp rocks and wire must also be policed from the area.

Adequate nutrition is important to good foot health. The biggest issues in lameness are selenium, copper and zinc deficiencies. If foot rot is a herd-wide problem, visit with a nutritionist to decide if additional zinc or copper are needed. Not only will a good mineral program help with foot health, but it should also help the herd’s reproductive efficiency and overall immunity.

Some producers use vaccines for foot rot. We have several producers that vaccinate their herd before turnout every year and then vaccinate the calves in the fall. Data shows they treated 10-15 percent before vaccination, after vaccination they rarely treat an animal.

The earlier an animal is treated in the course of the disease, the better their chance of recovery. Penicillin has been the treatment of choice for many years, and I still use it a lot. The only problem with this treatment is it may need to be boostered in a day or two. In our area a dart gun has become the replacement for a good cowboy. This requires low volumes of antibiotics for treatment because darts hold a limited volume. I have issues with Beef Quality Assurance (BQA), the dart, and the actual amount of drug injected from the dart into the animal.

Long-acting products have be recommended because there should be no need for a booster or re-treatment. Long-acting tetracyclines work well, but may cause a tissue reaction if injected improperly and require a relatively large dose. Excede gives a seven-day tissue level. This product is expensive and usually reserved for bulls or calves. Micotil is used by some of our producers for treatment. We recommend they have the animal in excellent restraint to avoid self-injection and never use it in a dart gun.

Many of the animals we see at the clinic have had a treatment, or maybe two, on the ranch. We tip these animals on the tilt-table and find sole abscesses, toe cracks, punctures and heal necrosis which can be treated. Sometimes the initial foot rot has migrated into the joint and we are forced to surgically remove the claw. Other times radiographs are needed to help diagnose arthritis in joints other than the foot. If a lame critter doesn’t improve with one treatment, it is best to re-examine the animal to be sure of the treatment before re-treating.

About 75 percent of lamenesses are a result of foot rot. Untreated it can result in poor weight gains, decreased breeding efficiency and early culling. The cost of treatment is small compared to the loss of a bull or cow’s future in the herd. Visit with your veterinarian, nutritionist or extension specialist to examine the husbandry and treatment practices for your herd. Preventing lameness will result in more pounds of calf to sell and more cows pregnant, ultimately improving the cowherd’s overall efficiency.

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