HEALTH CLINIC - Digital Dermatitis

Continuing our new feature HEALTH CLINIC we this month concentrate on a problem that every dairy farmer has to contend with at some time or other - Digital Dermatitis.

Digital Dermatitis

Although the dairy herd has only been totally housed for a relatively short period of time the incidence of Digital Dermatitis does not take long to rear its ugly head and certainly poses huge problems of stress both to the dairy herd and the farmer. It is now the most common infectious cause of lameness and one of the top three causes of lameness, with over 70% of herds affected. Control of this disease should be a major part of any herd health plan.

Controlling Digital Dermatitis: The Key Factors

  • Do not buy in Digital Dermatitis with purchased dairy cows, as it is highly infectious. Check any newly purchased cows or heifers.
  • Inspect feet regularly, that is weekly, determine the extent of the problem and especially the severity of the lesions.
  • Treat the disease early to prevent an explosion of cases later as it does not take long for cases to multiply.
  • Use footbaths with care as clean feet and footbaths are an essential part of a successful treatment but can increase the incidence if used incorrectly.
  • Where there are severe cases treat on an individual basis as footbaths have a limited application.
  • Good slurry management is essential to prevent too much contact with cattle feet. Could you walk around the unit in your slippers just after scraping out has been done?
  • Have a control plan for digital dermatitis as part of your veterinary herd health plan.

It is wise to remember that this disease can have far reaching consequences for the health of your dairy herd and the financial benefits of your business, it will not go away, so recognise that early treatment will reduce the overall burden. The MDC website ( has some information on footbaths and the effectiveness of various treatments.