Correct, the best way to beat digital dermatitis (DD) is to focus on preventive practices like footbathing.
To assess the effectiveness of the footbath, evaluate the herd’s leg hygiene status (percentage of cows with dried, caked manure found on the outside of the leg) and DD infection status (percentage of cows with chronic and active DD lesions). If a high percentage (roughly ≥15%) of cows have dirty legs, adjustments to the barn’s cleanliness should be made as this may be limiting the footbath’s effectiveness. If a high percentage (about ≥5%) have active DD lesions, check the footbath protocol and design.
An optimal footbath design is 10-12 ft (3-3.7 m) long, 20-24 in (50-60 cm) wide and at minimum 4in (10 cm) solution depth. The frequency of use depends on the farm’s DD infection status but, on average, 4 times per week is acceptable. Solutions must be replaced every 200 cow passes or after 24 hrs or if the depth of the solution is less than 4 in (10 cm). Calculate the footbath’s volume to calculate the amount of product required to achieve the desired product concentration and follow the product’s label. The preparation of solutions must accurately and consistently achieve the desired concentration every single time! Examples of desired concentrations of common products are 2-6% for formalin, 2-5% for copper sulfate. Manage the footbath’s pH to a range of 3 to 5. You can find more information on footbaths here: https://www.dairyresearch.ca/pdf/Footbath_Description_DFC_Final.pdf
– Dr. Laura Solano, Farm Animal Care Consultant