The Udder Side of the Story
I had a phone call the other day from a client about two bulls that had foot rot. He wanted to know if there was anything better than LA 200 or Excenel for foot rot problems. After a little discussion it sounded like he had a problem with flint rock or something going into the feet of these two bulls and causing abscessation. Regretfully foot rot is not the only thing that will cause problems with feet on cattle.
One of the most common problems that I see is abscessation somewhere in the hoof. Mostly this is caused by flint rock or something stabbing into the hoof. As we get more rain the problem gets worse. This is due to the water washing up more rock out of the ground. These abscesses must be trimmed out and ventral drainage achieved. Then when the infection is gone the hoof must heal over that area from the inside out.
Another common abscess that I will see is where the toes have grown very long. This is from laminitis, just like horses get. Cattle will overeat in the pasture when we get that big flush of grass in the spring, or it is our over-feeding. Commonly this is called founder. That seed on the head of grass is grain and when we are feeding to many total carbohydrates, we will get a constriction of blood vessels in the hoof. Cattle will show up lame up to 8 weeks later after the insult. As the tissue dies from lack of blood supply it will cause a sterile abscess at the toe, where the lamina is, hence the name laminitis. To treat this, the hoof must be reshaped and the leg stood up back to as close to normal as possible. We may not be able to get this done in one trimming and generally it may take two or maybe three over the course of a few months.
Another common problem is from the amount of moisture in the ground where the cattle are standing. I sometimes see a crack going up the hoof wall. This may go deep enough to abscess, or it may not. The moisture in the ground draws all of the natural oils out of the hoof wall causing it to get brittle and crack. The normal hoof has a covering that prevents this, but too much moisture will cause the natural oils to leach out due to the drying. These need to be trimmed out and treated. Then the cow needs to put in a pasture where you have better drainage and she does not have to stand in a swamp half of the time.
The other problem I see with feet is hairy heel warts or also called strawberry foot rot. This is caused by dirty lots or pastures. Commonly it is found on dairy cattle but I have also seen it on beef. This is caused by a manure bug and it will put the cow on the ground if not treated. It starts as small red, hairy nodules on the heel and eats away the hoof from the heel forward. I have seen this almost eat the whole hoof off of a cow. The treatment for this is a simple trim job, pack and wrap with a tetracycline. The wrap may have to be changed once or twice, but they normally heal up and the cow walks sound again. Again this problem can be prevented by cleaning and allowing drainage.
Tim O'Neill owns and operates Country Veterinarian Service in Farmington, Ark.