Hoof trimming- basic step for prevention of lameness in herds of dairy cattle.
Health of hoofs conditions not only the quantity of produced milk, but also the length of animal use. Unfortunately, increased frequency of hoof disease incidence can be observed, which apart from reproductive disorders and mastitis is a major cause of culling. It is worth to remember that the basic and significant step for prevention of hoof disease is their regular correction.
Hoof disease aetiology and significance
Hoof disease is a major problem in dairy cattle herds. In addition to the production losses, hoof disease leads to problems in reproduction, and the accompanying pain and discomfort are the cause of the reduction of animal welfare conditions. Such conditions involve inflammation of the hoof wall tissue, which, if not diagnosed and treated, may lead to laminitis, finger dermatitis, sole ulcers, interdigital hyperplasia or interdigital phlegmon. There are many factors predisposing to the onset of these conditions (hoof cracks, mechanical damage during correction, improper farming system), however nutritional errors resulting in metabolic disorders have a significant impact on their incidence. This is also the reason for an increased risk of lameness during the early phase of initiating lactation. Components with a high concentration of easily digestible carbohydrates dominate in the structure of a feed ration due to the rapid increase in the quantity of produced milk observed in this period. In consequence, excess production of volatile fatty acid takes place during the process of rumen fermentation. With a low content of effective fibre (NDF), this results in losing the ability to neutralize the gastrointestinal tract environment (acidosis). In the initial stage, acidosis leads to a reduction of the pH value in the rumen and partially reduces the activity of protozoa (pH < 5.5). Advanced cases result in decomposition of beneficial micro-flora, and in consequence – production of endotoxins. A sharp increase of histamine level leads to weakening of the structure of the capillaries, and thus to vascular disorders within the hoof. Hoof grown in conditions with insufficient oxygen and nutrients is of low quality, which increases the predisposition for the ingress of pathogenic micro-organisms responsible for inflammatory reactions. What is more, poor quality hoof is prone to cracks and may not sufficiently serve the biomechanical function of transferring the weight of the body to the ground when an animal stands or moves.
Why is correction so important?
Properly constructed hooves have well developed and formed hoof walls (hoof horn), which is the outer layer. Directly beneath there is the middle layer, the so called production layer, which covers the derivatives of the subcutaneous layer. It is important to remember, that the most functional product of skin is the hoof horn, which undergoes growth and abrasion throughout the entire period of animal use. In wild cloven-hoofed animals the growth of the corneum layer is adapted to the degree of its abrasion (approx 5 mm per month). In turn, in domestic cattle, due to the increase of produced milk and change in the farming system (mainly all year round in the barn), regulation of this process has been disrupted. In consequence, overgrown hooves can be observed, and they are the reason of incorrect load distribution, which results in increased tension of the digit flexor tendon. In such conditions, local overload of the hoof production tissue predisposes to the development of ulcers. Hoof shape correction becomes a necessary procedure in each herd to preserve proper health and correct shape of the hoof. The frequency of this procedure depends mainly on the breeding system (indoor farming: 3-4 times a ear; indoor farming and grazing system: 2 times a year). However, one should not ignore the significance of cows’ physiological state. Due to the production conditions and high incidence of metabolic disorders, correction should be regularly carried out in animals in the first months of lactation.
Correction is not all.
It is difficult to ensure the quality of grown hoof horn in animals with high production potential. However, such activity should become a primary goal for breeders, especially with herds where lameness is a problem of more than a half of cows. Apart from regular and properly executed correction, the use of supporting preparations is an important factor in preventive treatment of hooves. A good example of these are the hoof products offered by Ruminta. The first one – Hoofsept bath, is a solution for hoof baths. Its primary advantage is its strong germicidal effect and that it strengthens the layers of produced hoof horn due to a high content of copper chelates. In addition, when used in special tubs or vessels, it allows for a greater contact with the surface of the hoof, which largely determines the lower incidence of disease. What is more, in comparison with other preparations containing copper sulphate, the composition of Blue bath ingredients is not harmful to health and undergoes relatively fast biodegradation. The next product for possible use is Hoofsept spray – a spray for cows undergoing treatment of affected hooves. Due to a high content of copper and zinc chelates, it is not only antibacterial, but it nourishes the hoof horn layer, which improves its quality. The spray dries in minutes, and the animal may return to normal functioning, it aids in tackling inflammation, improves skin tissue regeneration, and liquid consistence and the form of a spray enables local, more effective application.