Researcher Finds Success in Nutritional Prevention of Digital Dermatitis

Researcher Finds Success in Nutritional Prevention of Digital Dermatitis

University of Wisconsin researcher explains recent research in prevention of digital dermatitis using nutrition, rather than traditional footbaths

As part of a new Zinpro video series focusing on lameness prevention, a University of Wisconsin researcher discusses progress in treating and preventing digital dermatitis in pre-calving heifers.

A common infectious claw disease in cattle, digital dermatitis – also called hairy heel warts – can produce painful skin lesions and lead to lameness.

In the video, Dr. Dörte Döpfer, professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, discusses her interest in alternative methods to footbaths to help prevent and control digital dermatitis. This interest led her research group to evaluate the potential effectiveness of a nutritional strategy that provides protection against the disease.

Dr. Dörte Döpfer, professor in the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, says lameness prevention is key to helping first-calf heifers start healthy and stay healthy.

According to Dr. Döpfer, results of the first study, an experimental infection trial, indicated a trend for decreased size of digital dermatitis lesions, as well as a trend toward fewer painful/acute lesions, which are classified as "M2" lesions.

Results from the second study, a large commercial Midwest dairy trial, showed a significant decrease in the prevalence of digital dermatitis lesions in dairy replacement heifers before first calving.

Dr. Döpfer said this new research may influence management philosophies in the future, and she highlighted the importance of getting replacement heifers off to a healthy start.

"I think we are drawing increasing attention to these pre-calving heifers that are currently really not watched over well when it comes to improving claw health, so if we could focus on their well-being and health as an investment for their first lactation, and make them come into the first lactation even healthier in terms of claw diseases, that would be beneficial for their productive lives."

She prescribed an integrated prevention and control strategy for infectious claw diseases that comes as early as calf age and continues during all lifetime phases of a cow.

Future episodes from the new series will focus on lameness detection, treating claw lesions that cause lameness, and best management practices for lameness prevention.

A different expert will be featured in each episode as the series unfolds. To learn more, visit the Experts Talk video library.

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