The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

As winter weather sweeps across the nation, dairy farmers face tough conditions when it comes to maintaining healthy cow claws. Heavy rains and frequent climate changes from wet to dry create sloppy conditions and raise the potential for bacterial infections and other negative effects on cows’ feet.

When seasonal changes take their toll, farmers can do two things to manage claw hygiene: keep walkways clear and utilize foot baths or use foot spray regularly.

Wet Weather Attracts Bacteria

In cold, wet weather, cows’ feet tend to retain more moisture than in dry conditions. Wet hooves have a higher chance of developing foot rot, which causes the hoof to deteriorate, due to excessive bacteria that get caught in the moisture. This can be very difficult to combat and usually requires antibiotics to get the feet back to normal.

The best way to avoid a bacterial infection from wet weather is to stay mindful of the bacteria that collects in the manure, and keep walkways as clean as possible.

Clearing Common Animal Pathways

As a wet climate sets the stage for bacteria to run rampant, scraping alleys of manure more often in the wintertime will reduce the chances of it sticking to animals’ feet. It’s also important to note that the wetter the manure, the easier it sticks.

To keep cow claws clean in wet weather, a daily scraping routine is key, especially on pathways that the animals travel across multiple times throughout the day. Bacterial infections can lead to serious hygienic issues that are costly to fix.

Utilize Footbaths or Foot Spray

Footbaths and foot spray are another crucial part of a winter hoof care regimen. These techniques involve chemicals that helps fight infection when the potential for diseases is at its peak. If outside temperatures permit footbaths, farmers can move their cows through them twice a day to ensure hoof cleanliness. With two steps per foot in the footbath, the cow will exit the bath with a residue that provides a hostile environment for bacteria to grow. Ideally, footbaths should be near a water source to keep the process efficient.

In subzero temperatures where a footbath would cause a slippery ice problem, dairy farmers can use foot spray on the hooves to keep them treated. A concentrated foot spray can help prevent infections like digital dermatitis, which can cause intense pain and even lameness. Farmers can spray the back of the feet about three to five times a week while the cows stand in feeding stalls. Employing these techniques will help maintain healthy claws through the cold season.

With the right tools, dairy farmers can help ensure the comfort of their animals and maintain the productivity of the herd. Stay ahead of lameness this winter by keeping your cows environment as clean and dry as possible.