Anda di halaman 1dari 72


by Jan Shearer, DVM
Sarel Van Amstel, DVM
& Adrian Gonzalez, DVM

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 2

Chapter 1 An introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Chapter 2 Anatomy of the bovine foot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
Chapter 3 Claw trimming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
Chapter 4 Causes of lameness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35
Chapter 5 Lameness in the upper leg and in calves . . . . .46
Chapter 6 Footbaths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52
Chapter 7 Monitoring lameness

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55

Chapter 8 Cattle behavior, cow-friendly facilities & proper

handling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64
Appendices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67

Copyright 2005 by W.D. Hoards & Sons Company

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information or storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Address inquiries to
W.D. Hoard & Sons Company
Book Department
P O Box 801
Fort Atkinson WI 53538-0801 USA
fax 920/563-7298; e-mail <>

ISBN 0-932147-42-9
Printed in the United States of America

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 3


Dr. Jan K. Shearer is professor and dairy extension veterinarian with the University of
Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville. His area of interest and expertise is
production medicine as it applies to large dairy herd management.
Dr. Shearer received his DVM from Ohio State University in 1975 and subsequently
entered dairy practice in north central Ohio with the Orville Veterinary Clinic, Inc. In
1979, he returned to OSU to pursue graduate studies in immunology and nutrition which
earned him an MS degree in 1981. While at OSU, he was appointed assistant professor in
the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine where his duties were teaching and
research in dairy herd health.
At the University of Florida, Dr. Shearer is responsible for veterinary Extension programs dealing with dairy cattle health and management. He has numerous publications
in both the scientific and non-scientific literature. He serves as a consultant to dairy operations and the allied dairy industry both nationally and internationally. His research
interests include lameness and effects of heat stress on production and health of dairy

Dr. Sarel van Amstel is associate professor and section head of the farm animal clinic
with the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. His area of expertise is
farm animal medicine and surgery with particular emphasis on lameness in cattle. He
manages large numbers of both local and referred lameness cases in beef and dairy cattle
and is responsible for the clinical training and classroom teaching of pre-graduate and
graduate veterinary students. He serves as consultant to practicing veterinarians, dairy
operations and the allied dairy industry. He is actively involved in continuing education
on a local, national and international level.
Dr. van Amstel received his veterinary degree from the University of Pretoria, South
Africa.and was subsequently in a mixed animal practice. In 1973 he returned to the
Onderstepoort School of Veterinary Medicine in Pretoria, South Africa where in 1982 he
became board certified in Internal Medicine with the South African Veterinary council. In
1989 he was promoted to full professor and chair of the department of medicine.
Dr. van Amstel moved to the US in 1996. That same year he received a diploma in cattle lameness and foot trimming from the IPC Dairy Training center in Friesland, the
Netherlands. He gained board certification with the American Board of Veterinary
Practitioners (Food Animal Specialty) in 2000 and the American College of Veterinary
Internal Medicine in 2001.He has numerous publications in both peer reviewed journals
and scientific proceedings. His current research involves factors relating to sole horn in

Dr. Adrian Gonzalez is a veterinarian whose practice is devoted entirely to cattle foot
care and cow comfort in Pamplona, Spain. After working for a short period of time as an
equine farrier, he has emphasized cattle foot care, claw trimming and design of cow
friendly facilities since 1988. He has personally trimmed feet on more than 100,000 cattle and is founder and owner of ANKA Hoof Care Company. He presently manages additional hoof trimming businesses which are responsible for foot care and trimming services to more than 70,000 dairy cattle.
Dr. Gonzalez is a well-known international consultant, invited speaker and hoof care
instructor, having worked in Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Israel, Portugal, Mexico,
Italy, South America and the United States. He is fluent in the languages of English,
French, Basque and Catalan.
Dr. Gonzalez is a faculty member with the University of Floridas Master Hoof Care
Program where he serves as the lead instructor in the Spanish version of this program.
He has authored numerous publications and monographs on bovine lameness, and is
author of the book, Cuidados de Pezunas en Vacuno Lechero, a visual atlas of foot care in

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 4

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 5

Chapter 1
An Introduction

ameness is one of the most

prevalent and costly of clinical disease conditions in dairy
cattle. Reasons are several and
include: 1) confinement of cows
to harder, wetter, more abrasive
floors; 2) housing conditions
which either limit or discourage
lying/resting time; 3) housing
conditions which result in prolonged exposure of feet to wet
manure slurry; 4) rations and
feeding conditions which encourage rumen acidosis; 5) floors
which are smooth and thus slippery; 6) failure to recognize and
institute prompt treatment of
lameness; 7) trimming techniques, and 8) untimely trimming schedules, just to mention
a few. An understanding of lameness conditions in terms of what
they are, how or why they occur,
and what to do about them is
essential to minimize production
losses as well as the loss of cows
from these and related problems.
A study of 37 farms in
England and Wales over a 3-year
period showed a mean incidence
of 55 cases of lameness per 100
cows per year. Mean incidence
was higher during winter compared to summer. About 95% of
lesions that caused lameness
occurred in the feet, with 92%
occurring in rear feet.
This survey further broke
down rear feet lesions with the
finding that the outside claw was
affected in over two-thirds of

cases; in front feet lesions, 46%

occurred on the inside claw, with
32% on the outside claw.
Sole ulcers and white line disease made up almost 60% of all
lesions; digital dermatitis (footwarts or hairy heel warts) comprised 8%, followed by foot rot,
interdigital hyperplasia (fibroma
or corns), and foreign body.
Data on lameness reported to
DHI in 1995 for the University of
Florida Dairy research herd
showed 51 cases/100 cows clinical lameness events affecting
120 (35%) cows; 27/120 (22.5%)
had more than one clinical
event. In contrast to the UK
study, the majority of cases in
the University Florida herd
occurred during the summer,

90% of all lameness originates in

the foot

June through November. Claw

disorders (sole ulcers and white
line disease) accounted for 63%
(113/178) of reported cases
whereas digital dermatitis and
foot rot were identified as causes
for 20% (35/178), and 17%
(30/178) of cases, respectively.
The economic loss incurred as
a result of disease arises primarily from the consequences of disease and not the cost of treatment.
estimated that sole ulcers were
responsible for the greatest economic
$627/case, followed by digital

90% of all foot

involves a rear

70-90% of rear
foot lameness
involves the outside claw

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 6

diseases such as white line disease and sole abscess which

$257/case. Digital dermatitis
and foot rot accounted for smaller, but significant losses at
$128/case. Lower milk yields,
reduced reproductive performance,
culling rates, discarded milk,
and the additional management
effort required to care for lame
cows accounted for the majority
of economic loss. Application of
these same figures to the
University of Florida's herd of
346 cows computes a loss due to
clinical lameness during the 1year study period of $58,266.00.
Calculations of economic loss on
an individual cow basis, place
costs per lame cow at $327, or
$168/cow in the herd.
Guard reports similar but
slightly lower rates of economic
loss in New York dairy herds.
Based on an incidence rate of 30
cases/100 cows/year, a fatality
rate of 2%, an increase in days
open of 28 days, and costs for
treatment and additional labor of
$23/case, he estimated a cost of
$9000/100 cows/year. Cost per
clinical case in Guard's example
is $300/lame cow, or $90/cow
in the herd. The estimates of loss
per cow are similar for both
studies. The difference in costs
per cow in the herd is largely a
function of the incidence.
Clearly, lameness is one of
dairys most costly of health
Lameness is reported to be the
third most common cause of
culling or premature removal
from the herd, behind reproduction and mastitis. Depending
upon one's definition of culling
this may be a bit confusing. For
example, cows which leave the
herd by way of sale for dairy purposes or those which leave due

to low production are removed

for voluntary (at the will of the
dairymen) reasons. In its
strictest sense, culling is a voluntary procedure applied to
eliminate cows with low milkproducing ability. Those which
leave the herd due to reproductive failure, disease and injury,
death, mastitis, or due to feet
and legs are involuntarily lost
from the herd. Since the loss of
animals for such reasons is not
at the discretion of the dairyman
they are termed involuntary.
Lameness severely limits milk
production and reproductive
performance. Estimates are that
cattle which become lame and
are not attended to can experience a 20% loss in milk production over an entire lactation.
Lame cows dont go to pasture,
spend little time at the feed
bunk, and prefer to lie down
most of the time. If the cow doesnt eat she cant produce nor
maintain body weight. Under
these conditions she becomes a
cull for reasons of low production. British surveys indicate
that cattle sold to slaughter as a
result of lameness have carcasses worth only one half as much
as those sold to slaughter for
other reasons. Reproductive performance is similarly reduced. In
one study, lameness resulted in
prolongation of the calving interval by 33 days.

Genetic factors have a significant influence on feet and leg
traits in dairy cattle. Specific
traits scored include foot angle;
legs, side view; and legs, rear
view. Heritability values tend to
be low (particularly for legs rear
view and foot angle), as scores
can vary significantly depending
on the cows stance at the time of
scoring. Simply moving the cow
forward a few steps can make
major differences in scoring of
feet and leg traits. Other factors
which markedly influence posture and stance are hooves in
need of trimming or pain associated with claw disease.
Heritability estimates for feet
and leg traits on Holstein cows
range from about .08 to .16
which means that single scores
from an individual cow are not a
reliable measure of that cows
genetic merit for a specific trait.
However, where scores from
multiple offspring are available,
the breeding value of a specific
bull or cow can be reliably estimated. Successful genetic improvement requires selection
based on information from progeny tests of bulls and not on the
evaluation of a specific individual animal.
Generally speaking, cow legs
should be sturdy with a strong

Examples of a shallow heel and low-angled foot (left) and a shorter heel with a
desirably steeper (45) angle.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 7

The cow to the left is cow-hocked:

her toes point out instead of ahead,
compared to the toes of the cow on
the right. This can be genetic, but it
often is due to overgrowth and
overloading the outside claws. The
cow attempts to shift her weight to
the inside claw by assuming a
cow-hocked posture.

pastern and good flexibility in

the hock. Abnormally straight
hocks, weak pasterns, sickle
hocks, splay toes or overlapping
toes are associated with an
increase in the incidence of
lameness. The ideal conformation of the cows foot should be
short, steeply angled, high in the
heel and even clawed. Some suggest that the ideal hoof angle is
50-55 for front feet and 45-50
for rear feet.
Lameness in cattle has links
to nutrition. We feed dairy cattle
to maximize feed intake in order
to optimize milk production
while also trying to avoid those
conditions which might lead to
digestive disorders and metabolic disease. This requires careful
attention to the formulation of
rations, mixing of ingredients
and delivery of nutrients. As production increases, management
of feeding programs becomes
more challenging and potential
for errors rises. The errors of
greatest significance with respect to lameness are those that
contribute to rumen acidosis.
Rumen acidosis is characterized by low rumen pH (pH 5.6 or
lower 6.0 to 6.8 is normal). It
may occur as an acute, chronic
or subclinical (subacute) condition. In its acute form, rumen

acute rumen acidosis would

include lameness (due to laminitis), poor body condition, occasional nose bleeding in cows,
and higher than normal cull
rates in herds for poorly defined
health reasons. Low milk fat percent or the milk fat to protein
ratio may be used as an indicator of acidosis in a herd: milk fat
test may drop 0.2 points below
protein test. However, these
parameters are also affected by
the amount of fat in the ration,
the presence of ionophores, and
other factors.
Veterinarians may confirm

acidosis may be accompanied by

bloat, diarrhea, dehydration
and/or death in severe cases. In
its chronic or subacute form,
rumen acidosis is better characterized as a syndrome whereby
rumen pH hovers near the
threshold of 5.6 or less for
extended periods. This syndrome
is often referred to by the
acronym SARA,
which stands for
S u b A c u t e
Acidosis. Unlike more
symptoms expressed
by cows suffering
from acute rumen
acidosis, animals
SARA will exhibit
bouts of reduced
feed intake, less
cud chewing and
mild to moderate
Since the incidence of SARA
may be quite
widespread within a herd, groups
of cows may be
this disorder, al- In problem herds, a veterinarian can perform rumenothough only sev- centesis, where a sample of rumen fluid is analyzed for
eral cows actually pH and volatile fatty acids (VFA).
exhibit signs.
secondary signs of sub-

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 8

rumen acidosis by a technique

known as rumenocentesis. This
procedure is performed by the
aspiration of fluid from the lower
sac of the rumen as illustrated
on the previous page. According
to one guideline, when more
than 25% of samples from 12
cows register a pH less than 5.5,
the herd is classified as experiencing rumen acidosis.
rumen pH include:
1) Forage to concentrate
ratio. High forage rations favor
pH over 6 and stimulate higher
rates of saliva secretion. Saliva
contains bicarbonate which
buffers the rumen. Rumen acidosis is associated with overfeeding highly digestible carbohydrates, under-feeding effective
fiber, or both. The highly digestible carbohydrates include
starch, sugars, and pectin. They
are more commonly referred to
collectively as non-structural
carbohydrate (NSC). Starch is
fermented by rumen microbes to
produce microbial protein and
volatile fatty acids (VFA). Starch
that escapes fermentation in the

rumen is digested in the small

and large intestine. Pectin, found
in citrus pulp and beet pulp, is
highly fermentable, but unlike
starch, its rate of fermentation
slows as rumen pH decreases.
This has obvious advantages for
stabilizing the rumen environment. Sugars are highly fermentable and are rapidly and
completely digested. The common sources of sugars in dairy
cattle diets would include certain
types of lush green forages,
molasses and fresh citrus pulp.
Effective (or long) fiber is
derived largely from forages.
These are necessary in the diet
for at least three reasons: 1) to
stimulate chewing and the secretion of salivary buffers, 2) to
form the rumen mat which
entraps feed particles for
improved digestion, and 3) highly digestible forages provide an
important source of substrate
(fuel) for rumen microbes. Since
the digestibility of forages may
vary considerably, this becomes
an important criterion in the
feeding management of dairy
2) The physical
form of feeds.
Grinding, pelleting, chopping or
over-mixing in a
mixer wagon can
change the size of
the feed particle. If
forage particle size
is too short, a forage mat in the
maintained, fiber
digestion is decreased, and rumen pH is lowered. Production
of saliva also is
reduced due to
less cud chewing.

Cows typically spend over 8

hours chewing per day. Some
suggest that when resting, 60
percent of the cows should be
chewing their cuds.
If concentrates are finely
ground, starch is exposed to
increased microbial fermentation. Rumen pH decreases and
production of propionate and
lactate increases: This lowers
milk fat percentage, increases
milk protein percentage, and
lowers milk yield. Steam flaking,
pelleting or grinding cereal
grains will disrupt starch granules and increase their rumen
availability and potential to support growth of rumen microbes,
but also may increase the risk of
rumen acidosis.
3) Feed intake. As feed intake
rations contain large amounts of
fermentable carbohydrate, rumen pH can decrease because
more substrate is available for
microbial uses.
The amount of saliva produced also increases, but at a
relatively slower rate compared
to the higher intake of feed, so
the buffering effect of the saliva
is reduced, allowing an overall
drop in pH.
4) Moisture content of the
ration. Wet feeds can reduce
rumen pH because less saliva is
needed to wet the feed for swallowing.
5) Feeding unsaturated fats
and oils. Unsaturated fatty acid,
such as fatty acid in vegetable
and fish oils, can reduce fiber
digestibility, be toxic to fiber
digesting bacteria, and coat the
fiber particles, which reduces
fiber digestion. Processing of
oilseeds (such as grinding or
extruding) can rupture the cell
wall of the seed and release the
oil into the rumen, allowing simi-

Heat stress indirectly affects the rumen pH of cattle by altering feed intake, reducing cud chewing and encouraging
rumen acidosis.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 9

lar negative effects to occur in

the rumen.
6) Method of feeding. Feeding total mixed rations (TMR) or
complete rations has real advantages: it stabilizes rumen pH,
provides rumen degradable protein (RDP) and fermentable carbohydrate at the same time,
increases dry matter intake, and
minimizes feed selection or sorting by cattle. Be watchful for
feed sorting, which may be a significant contributor to rumen
acidosis and laminitis.
Trace Minerals. The microstructure of claw horn is analogous to that of a brick wall,
whereby bricks would represent
horn cells; and mortar, which
cements the bricks together,
would represent the intercellular
strength and integrity of each
are essential to the claw capsules primary function which is
to protect the underlying corium.
Trace minerals and vitamins
play a vital role in the development of claw horn so that is not
only able to serve its intended
functions, but also endure the
stresses imposed by confinement
housing conditions.
Horn cells are epithelial cells
capable of producing keratin.
For this reason, they are also
referred to as keratinocytes.
Keratin is an insoluble protein
that forms a support matrix
within keratinocytes, creating
structural rigidity and strength.
The trace minerals zinc, copper,
manganese, cobalt and others,
are essential nutrients for the
proper synthesis and cross-linking of keratin filaments within
these cells and are therefore
important dietary nutrients.
Trace minerals also serve roles
in a number of enzyme systems
required for the formation and
growth of cartilage and bone.

Several studies show improved

claw health in animals supplemented with trace minerals.
Vitamins. The fat soluble vitamins A, D and E have important
roles in the synthesis of epithelial
tissues, growth and development
of bones, and maintenance of
immune function. Most notable
among the diseases associated
with a deficiency of these vitamins would include rickets, white
muscle disease and a generalized
increase in susceptibility to infectious diseases. Properly formulated rations should include supplementary fat-soluble vitamins as
On the other hand, until
recently, the water soluble or Bvitamins were not usually supplemented in dairy rations. For
years we assumed that rumen
microbes synthesized these vitamins in ample amounts. However, recent research indicates
that low rumen pH (as may be
observed in cows on high grain
diets) reduces the microbial synthesis of biotin, an important Bvitamin essential to the formation and integrity of epithelial
tissues. German researchers
have established that biotin
serves a key role in the synthesis
of keratin proteins and the long
chain fatty acids contained in
the intercellular cementing substance. Several studies have
shown a variety of benefits from
the feeding of supplemental
biotin including: decreased incidences of sole ulcers and heel
erosion, improved healing rates
for cows affected with sole
ulcers, reduced occurrence of
vertical wall fissures and decreased lameness in pastured
A variety of housing and management factors appear to influence the amount of time cows
will spend standing versus lying
down and resting. Obvious con-

siderations are availability of

stalls, stall design and amount
of bedding. Heifers which spent
10 or more hours per day lying
down had significantly better
claw health than those that
spent 5 hours or less lying down
per day, according to a study by
Leonard. Normally, cows will lie
down and rest for as much as 11
to 14 hours per day. Less time
resting usually means less time
ruminating or cud-chewing.
When cud-chewing time is
reduced, the natural buffering of
rumen contents by saliva is
First lactation heifers recently
introduced to the herd may be
slower to lie down in free stalls
for a number of reasons.
Sometimes its fear of aggressive
behavior by mature cows or
unfamiliarity with free-stalls
that reduces resting behavior.
One of the most common problems is simply the number of
stalls available. Most dairy operations in the US are guilty of
overcrowding their barns with
animals. When stall numbers
are equivalent to or less than the
total number of animals in the
barn, timid heifers may have less
opportunity to rest. British recommendations call for at least
10% more free-stalls than cows
to allow for more choice and to
encourage lying time.
There are a number of management considerations that can
affect standing time. A common
one that is often ignored is the
change from 2X to a 3X milking
schedule. Depending on group
sizes and milking parlor cow flow
rates, standing time for cows
may be increased from 1 to several more hours per day.
Overcrowding, poor stall design,
lack of bedding or poor bedding
management, and heat stress
are just a few of the complications that should be considered
when cows fail to spend the
appropriate amount of time at

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 10

Proper design of stalls for
cows should consider cow resting behavior and normal lying
positions. Resting areas for cows
must provide six freedoms: 1)
freedom to stretch their front
legs forward, 2) freedom to lie on
their sides with unobstructed
space for their head and neck, 3)
freedom to rest their heads
against their sides without hindrance from a partition, 4) freedom to rest with their legs,
udders, and tails on the platform, 5) freedom to stand or lie
without fear or pain from neck
rails, partitions or supports, and
6) freedom to rest on a clean, dry
and soft bed. Cows are clearly
very adaptable creatures considering that these freedoms are
rarely accomplished in many
modern housing systems.
A comfortable stall encourages
resting, thereby improving cow
comfort and overall performance. Some recommendations
for Holstein cattle advise construction of a free-stall 8 feet (2.5
m) long (7 feet 6 inches or [2.3 m]
for two facing rows) by 4 feet
wide (1.25 m) with a brisket
board (15 inches [38 cm] high)
located 5 feet 8 inches (1.75 m)
from the stall curb. Excessive
curb height (over 6 inches [15
cm] high), inadequate bedding of
the freestall, and insufficient
lunge space have all been related
to an increase in herd lameness.
Another study suggests that
the above recommendations on
stall design dimensions are
insufficient, and recommends
stalls be slightly longer than 9
foot 8 inches (3 m). Few barns in
the US have been constructed
with stall dimensions approaching these recommendations.
Clearly, some feel that this is
excessive stall size and cost prohibitive. Others suggest that
these recommendations may be
appropriate for larger framed
cattle but not for the average


Holstein. In view of the requirements of cows for normal resting, and in light of the high rates
of lameness in free stall housed
cattle, further study of stall
design to maximize cow comfort
is warranted.
For specifications on stall
dimensions and design, you may
refer to plans available from
Hoards Dairyman Plan Service:
N85, the Penn State Free Stall &
Heifer Housing book; N35,
Planning Dairy Stall Barns, and
plan 897, Dry cow housing.
These are available on-line at the
Bookstore,, or
contact Hoards Dairyman for a
Concrete, depending upon
how it is formulated and mixed,
is capable of creating an
extremely abrasive surface for
cows claws. New concrete is
more abrasive than old, and wet
concrete is reportedly up to 83%
more abrasive than dry concrete.
Studies show that cattle claws
may wear more than they grow
during the first 2 months on
concrete. Animals on wet concrete
because of the increased abrasiveness associated with wet
concrete and secondly, because
moisture softens the claw horn
thereby permitting an increased
rate of hoof wear. A further cause
of increased hoof wear occurs
from crowding or rushing cattle
which results in increased hoof
wear from twisting and turning
on rough, abrasive flooring surfaces. For this reason, the proper
design of facilities which incorporates ideas for easing cow
movement thereby reducing
rotational forces on claws are
important housing considerations.
On the other hand, smooth
concrete reduces wear and contributes to claw overgrowth. It is
also slippery and predisposes to
injury, usually of the upper leg,

from falling. Grooving the surface of smooth concrete floors

increases traction, and while
costly, is well worth the expense
to prevent injuries from falling.
Some operations use rubber
belting (conveyor-type without
reinforcing wires) along feed
mangers and in alleys or walkways to and from the milking
parlor. However, if stalls are not
cool or comfortable places for
cows to rest, cows will lie on the
belts and thus block access to
the feedbunk. Rubber belts can
be slippery walking surfaces
when wet. Grooving the belts
(belts without reinforcing wires)
helps reduce slipping injuries.
Despite a few minor drawbacks,
rubber belting is a flooring surface modification that improves
cow and foot comfort. Its not a
substitute for a poorly designed
stall. In herds where rubber belting does not work well, it is often
because other cow comfort
issues (poor stall design, heat
stress, etc.) have not been properly addressed.
Others attempt to avoid the
negatives of concrete by using
feed barns with adjoining dirt
lots. The disadvantages of dirt
lots in warm, humid climates
(such as those in the southeastern US) is that they usually lack
shade and become muddy in wet
weather. Further, while cows
may be inclined to use these lots
during evening or overnight
hours, feeding patterns and
increased relative humidity during these same periods increases
the likelihood of hyperthermia
and reduced performance. Cow
cooling is a 24-hour-a-day
process during periods of intense
summer heat and humidity.
Clearly, adjoining dirt or grass
lots can reduce the mechanical
impact of hard surfaces on feet
and legs, but maximum use (or
benefit) will likely be seasonal.
Environmental influences have
a major impact on feet and legs.
Cattle on concrete for long periods

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 11

Rubber belting cant make up for poorly designed free stalls, but it contributes
to cow comfort as a respite from concrete.

of time are prone to lameness.

Although it may be impractical
in some operations, it is best for
cows to be off concrete for at
least 10 to 12 hours per day.
Grass pastures or dirt lots which
provide cows with a break from
the concrete could help reduce
lameness problems.
Acquired Corkscrew Claw of
the Front Feet. Abnormalities in
horn growth similar to that of
corkscrew claw are frequently

seen in the inner fore claws of

cows in free stall housing systems. This condition may occur
on a large scale and may be a
pressure-induced horn growth
deformity related to the leg position cows adopt when leaning
forward to eat at a feed bunk.
There could be other contributing causes, but housing conditions probably play an important
role, as this phenomenon is
unknown in pastured cattle.

Farmers who allowed their
cattle to walk in single file had
less lameness compared to farmers that pushed their cows to the
parlor and back, according to a
European study. Rushing cattle
over rough flooring surfaces led
to a greater potential for damage
to the corium and a greater incidence of lameness. Cows should
be allowed to move at their own
pace over hard and rough surfaces. Movement at the herdsmans pace increases foot problems and injuries from falling or
slipping. In large herds, cows
may be moved to and from milking facilities on horseback or
with ATVs. While practical, the
tendency is to move animals too
rapidly and encourage feet or leg
injury. Although there may not
be a completely satisfactory
compromise, by caring for animal walkways and making personnel aware of this concern,
one can limit lameness disorders
occurring in this way.

The acquired corkscrew or toeout posture of the inside claws of

front feet is common where cows
eat from a feedbunk. As the cow
reaches forward, she increases
weight-bearing on the inside claw,
which leads to overgrowth and
outward curving of the toe.
This is obvious in the photo on the
right, which shows this overgrowth
of the inside claw on both feet.

Photos courtesy of Mike Loewith,

Hoof Trimmers, Inc.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 12

Chapter 2
Anatomy of the bovine foot

fundamental knowledge of
lower limb anatomy is
essential to understanding the
various disease processes encountered in feet and leg problems in cattle. Part of the challenge is in becoming familiar
with proper terminology for
anatomical structures, diseases,
etc. While common or lay terms
are often more comfortable to
use, they can lead to confusion
and misunderstanding. Therefore, one objective of the foregoing discussion is to familiarize
readers with standard nomenclature
terms as well as common names
for anatomical structures.

The foot includes all of the
limb below the fetlock joint. It is
comprised of two digits each of
which has a horn-covered claw.
It should be noted that in cattle
the term claw is preferable to
hoof. As some might say horses have hooves and cows have
claws. The front side of the foot
is referred to as the dorsal side.
The back side of the front foot is
referred to as the palmar aspect
whereas in the rear foot it is
referred to as the plantar aspect.
When referring to an area nearest the longitudinal axis (i.e.
toward the center) it is designated as axial, whereas items farther away (away from the center)
are designated as abaxial.





PIP (Proximal
DIP (Distal


Navicular bone

Distal phalanx


Readers may find it useful to

review these concepts from time
to time while studying this manual.
Each digit of the foot has four
bones: phalanx 1 (P1) , phalanx
2 (P2) , phalanx 3 (P3), and navicular bone; and 2 joints: proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and
distal interphalangeal (DIP). The
proximal (closer to the center of
the body) end of P1, the first
phalanx, joins with the metacarpus (in the front leg) or metatarsus (in the rear leg) in the fetlock
joint, whereas the distal (away
from the center of the body) end
of P1 joins with the proximal end
of P2. This articulation between
P1 and P2 is referred to as the
proximal interphalangeal joint

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 13

(or PIP joint for short). The distal

end of P2 connects with the
proximal end of P3. This joint is
referred to as the distal interphalangeal joint (or DIP joint for
P3 is referred to as the third
phalanx, distal phalanx, coffin
bone, and pedal bone. For our
purposes in this manual we will
usually refer to the third phalanx as P3. P3 is completely
enclosed within the claw horn
capsule. Its solar surface is concave or arch shaped and marked
on the back edge by a bump
known as the flexor tuberosity.
The flexor tuberosity is the site
of attachment of the deep flexor
tendon. This tuberosity has an
important role in the development of sole ulcers.
The navicular bone (also
referred to as the distal sesamoid
bone) is attached to P3 by three
small ligaments and also to P2
by collateral ligaments. Between
the navicular bone and the deep
flexor tendon is the navicular
bursa. The navicular bursa contains joint fluid which permits
movement of the deep flexor tendon over the surface of the navicular bone during extension and
flexion of the claw. P3, the DIP
joint, navicular bone and navicular bursa all lie within the claw
The purpose of the claw horn
capsule is to protect the underlying sensitive tissues of the corium and dissipate the concussion
forces that occur when the digits
impact the ground. The claw
horn capsule consists of the wall
which can be divided into the
abaxial (or outside) and the axial
(or inside). The abaxial wall is
further subdivided into the dorsal (or front) and lateral (abaxial
side) aspects. The wall is demarcated from the heel on the abaxial side of the claw by the abaxial
groove. The wall consists of 2
types of horn: perioplic and coro-

nary. Perioplic horn is the softer

horn lying just below the coronet
at the skin-horn junction (corresponding to the human cuticle).
At the back of the foot the
periople gradually widens and
eventually becomes the horn of
the heel. Coronary horn, the
hardest horn within the claw
capsule, makes up the bulk of
the horn of the wall. The wall has
faint ridges or rugae which run
horizontally and parallel to each
other. Toward the heel these
ridges diverge reflecting a more
rapid rate of growth in the heel
region due to faster rates of
wear. In mature Holstein cattle
the length of the dorsal wall
should be a minimum of 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length from just
below the top of the hairless portion of the wall to the weight
bearing surface. Ideal heel
height, measured at the abaxial
groove, is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm).
The sole is produced by the


The claw capsule (ventral view):

1 Heel bulb
2 Sole
3 Abaxial and axial wall
4 White line

solar corium and merges imperceptibly with the horn of the heel
at the heel-sole junction. The
sole is connected to the wall by
means of the white line. White
line horn is produced by the
laminar corium. It courses forward from the area of the heel on
the abaxial side of the claw,
around the tip of the toe and
about one-third of the way back
on the axial side of the claws
weight bearing surface. Where
the white line leaves the weight
bearing surface it courses upward on the axial side of the
The white line is a unique and
important structure. It is the
softest horn within the claw capsule. This permits it to provide a
flexible junction between the
harder horn of the wall and the
softer horn of the sole. On the
other hand, because of its softer
nature, it is also represents a
weak spot on the weight-bearing


Three regions of the corium:

1 Perioplic corium
2 Coronary corium
3 Laminar corium
The solar corium is the fourth region
of the corium located ventrally.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 14

surface that is vulnerable to

damage, as will be discussed
later under white line disease.
Until recently, we knew relatively little about the claws suspensory apparatus and supporting structures. New information
suggests that these elaborate
structures have much to offer in
terms of understanding the
pathogenesis of claw disorders.
Cattle (and all animals with
claws or hooves) are suspended
in their feet, that is, they stand
in their feet, not on them. In
other words, P3 is suspended
within the claw horn capsule by
the laminar corium and a series
of collagen fiber bundles that
stretch from their insertion zone
on the surface of P3 to the basement membrane of the epidermis (the line of demarcation
between dermis and epidermis).
The interface between dermal
and epidermal components is
the interdigitating dermal and
epidermal laminae. The result is
that P3 hangs within the claw

This illustration shows the digital

cushions that act as shock absorbers
in the cows foot.
Christoph Lischer, 12th Intl. Symp. on
Lameness in Ruminants, 2002

capsule and weight is transferred as tension onto the wall of

the claw capsule.
In the horse, load bearing is
primarily on the wall. Weight
bearing in cattle requires displacement of load to the wall,
and support structures within
the sole and heel.
The primary structures within
the supportive apparatus of the
bovine claw are the solar corium
and associated connective tis-

sue, and the digital cushion

which consists of loose connective tissue and varying amounts
of adipose (fat) tissue. The digital
cushions are arranged in a
series of 3 parallel cylinders similar to the design used in the
cushion of a running shoe. In
the cows foot these cushions act
like shock absorbers within the
claw, protecting the corium and
permitting limited movement of
P3 in the region of the heel.
researchers have shown that the
amount of fat (and thus cushioning capacity) increases with
increasing age. This is believed
to have significant implications
for animals relative to their susceptibility to claw disorders.
The horn-producing germinal
layer of the epidermis and its
supporting dermal structure, the
corium, consists of four different
regions, each producing a structurally different type of horn:
perioplic horn, wall horn, laminar horn (white line) and solar
Perioplic horn overlying the



Abaxial groove


Diagram of the external features of the foot.


Hoof horn is produced in the upper half of the hoof or coronary region at the rate of 5 mm or 0.2 inch per month.
Since the hoof wall of a typical Holstein cow is about 3
inches long, it takes 12 to 15 months for horn produced in
this area to reach the weight-bearing surface of the foot.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 15

perioplic corium is found just

below the skin-horn junction
and extends to the back of the
claw to include the heel horn.
Horn of the wall is produced in
the area of the coronary corium
and is situated between the perioplic corium and sensitive laminae. The white line, also known
as laminar horn, is produced by
the area overlying the laminar
corium or sensitive laminae.
Solar horn overlies the solar
corium and produces the horn of
the sole. The four different
regions of the corium are shown
on page 13.
The corium consists of a rich
vascular network which terminates in dermal papillae or vascular pegs. A vascular peg consists of a main arteriole and a
venule, which connect at the tip
through a capillary bed. There
are also several vascular shunts
between the arteriole and
venule. These shunts may open
during laminitis, thus reducing
blood supply to the tip of the
vascular peg. This has an
adverse effect on the formation
of horn cells. Recent work suggests that these shunts are rela-

tively uncommon in the corium

of cattle until after damage to the
vascular system has occurred.
The epidermal layer overlying
the vascular pegs produces horn
cells in the form of tubules and
is thus called tubular horn.
Intertubular horn is produced
between the vascular pegs which
interconnect the tubular horn.
There are approximately 80 vascular pegs (also called dermal
papillae) per square millimeter of
coronary corium surface. This
means that the wall consists of
tightly packed tubular horn
which is cemented together by
intertubular horn. The perioplic
and solar corium have approximately 20 vascular pegs per
square millimeter. Since tubular
horn is what imparts structural
strength to the horn capsule, it
follows that the horn of the wall
is structurally the strongest followed by horn of the sole and the
Horn quality and strength is
further enhanced by the process
of keratinization and cornification. During the process of keratinization, keratin filaments are
formed within the cell that act to

The so-called white line in hooves acts like a hinge connecting

the rigid wall to the more flexible sole.

reinforce the cell structure, giving it rigidity and strength

Keratin filaments within these
cells also undergo a process
known as cross-linking, whereby
the keratin filaments are further
connected by chemical bonds.
The process of cross-linking further enhances the rigidity and
strength of horn cells as they
progress to the exterior.
Horn of the white line (laminar
horn) is produced from germinal
epithelium overlying the dermal
papillae (also referred to as dermal caps or cap-papillae) which
jut out from dermal folds on the
laminar corium.
Laminar horn is non-tubular
horn and therefore soft, flexible,
and tends to have a more rapid
turnover rate. Because of the
high turnover rate, it is generally
less mature, softer and less
resistant to wear and other environmental forces.
Horn quality is dependent on
a number of internal as well as
external factors. Internal factors
would include blood and nutrient supply, whereas external
factors relate to environmental

Horn-forming cells become cornified and like fingernails, slowly move toward the exterior surface.

or Basal
cell layer


F i g u r e s c o u r tesy
O h i o S t a t e U n i v e rs i t y


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 16

influences. Horn production requires a good vascular (blood

vessels) supply. Any compromise
in blood flow will lead to a negative effect on horn production.
Horn production is also dependent on an adequate supply
of protein, energy, calcium and
phosphorous. Micro-nutrients
such as the sulfur-containing
amino acids like cysteine and
methionine are essential for
cross-linking of keratin filaments.
Trace minerals like zinc and copper as well as biotin have very
important roles in the keratinization of horn cells and integrity of
the membrane-cementing substance of claw horn.
Horn quality is also influenced
environmental extremes such as
becoming hard and desiccated
under extremely dry conditions
or very soft with increased flexibility under conditions of high
moisture. Both horn cells and
membrane-cementing substance
can be influenced by certain
compounds. For example, exposure to copper sulfate has been
reported to destroy the membrane cementing substance,
making claw horn more brittle.
Likewise, constant exposure to
urine and manure can destroy
both the horn cells and cementing substance, possibly contributing to loss of horn as
observed in heel erosion. Finally,
both internal and external factors may act synergistically to
produce poor horn quality. For
example, changes in blood supply as seen with laminitis will
result in production of poor
quality horn. Poor quality horn
is more susceptible to the effects
of environmental influences.
The horn of the wall grows at a
rate of approximately 1/4-inch
(about 0.6 cm) per month. Horn
of the sole grows at a slightly
slower rate of just a little over
1/8-inch (0.3 cm) per month. In
young feeder cattle on high
planes of nutrition, this growth
rate may be increased to as


much as 2.5 times that of normal. The horn growth rate

depends on several factors
including breed, developmental
abnormalities, nutrition, environmental factors, the integrity
of the blood supply through the
corium, and the biomechanics of
weight bearing. For example,
horn growth rate of free stall
housed cattle is greater than
that of cattle on pasture or in tie
stalls. Claw horn proliferation
and keratinization are increased
in the summer, compared to the
winter months.
The cows stride consists of the
stance phase (standing position)
and the swing phase (movement
from, and back to, the standing
position). The swing phase is
divided into a retraction (contraction or shortening) and protraction (extension or lengthening)
phase. The retraction phase of
the stride starts with the cow in
standing position. The cow
begins her stride by shifting body
weight to the sole of the weightbearing surface of the claws
which also provides traction as
the cow enters the retraction
phase of the stride. As the body
moves forward and weight is
applied to the soles of each claw,
the foot is retracted (or lifted
upward) toward the body, thus
ending the retraction phase.
Once the foot leaves the
ground, it is extended forward
thus entering the protraction
phase (forward swing and placement of the foot on the ground
surface) of the stride. The heels
strike the ground first with the
soles resuming a normal weightbearing position as the cow completes the protraction phase and
reaches the standing position. In
a sense, the rear legs propel the
cows body forward while the
front legs act more like props or
supports for the body weight.
Gait characteristics are al-

tered by conditions which make

the surfaces of floors more or
less slippery. For example, on
wet, manure-covered concrete
floors, cows will alter their gait
by slowing walking speeds,
changing limb angles and reducing the length of their step, all in
an effort to increase stability on
the less secure surface.
Dairymen generally underestimate the number of lame cows in
their herd. A study of Minnesota
and Wisconsin dairy herds found
that investigators identified 2.5
times more lame cows than did
farmers. In a similar study, a
trained observer was able to
detect approximately 4 times as
many lame cows as did farmers.
This suggests that either lameness has become so prevalent
that many have learned to
accept a certain amount as normal, or that many people lack
the ability to detect mild to moderate degrees of lameness. Since
early detection is the key to limiting losses from lameness, techniques for early detection are
fundamental to management of
lameness in dairy herds.
One system for the evaluation
of locomotion in dairy cattle has
been developed by Sprecher and
co-workers at Michigan State
University (next page). Locomotion scores range from 1 to 5
(5 being severely lame) and are
based on observation of back
posture while standing and on
back posture and abnormalities
in gait while walking. The system
is very useful for detection of
claw lesions at an early stage
because appearance of the
arched back posture generally
precedes gait abnormalities.
Animals are to be observed on a
flat dry surface and scored as
It is important to note that the
degree of lameness is almost
unnoticeable at locomotion score

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 17

3, while studies indicate reductions in milk yield and reproductive performance. Considering
that most lameness goes undetected until it reaches the level of
score 4 or 5, and that even then,
many are missed, it is clear that
lameness is costing some herds
far more than most estimates to
date. Some estimates indicate
that milk yield may be reduced
by as much as 17% for cows
with lameness resulting in a
locomotion score of 4 and as
much as 36% or more for cows
with a locomotion score of 5.
Locomotion score 2 represents an
important window of opportunity
for correction of early claw
lesions. The conscientious application of this system to detect
lameness at an early stage can be
a useful tool to assess lameness
and the need for corrective
Under normal circumstances,
the force of impact is evenly dissipated during locomotion, and
absorbed by the solar corium,
digital cushion, laminar corium

and its attachment to the wall

and the supporting ligaments
and tendons. However, there are
other important anatomical factors which influence weight
bearing on claws. These must be
considered when attempting to
understand claw horn overgrowth and the claw disorders
that may result.
Anatomical Considerations.
There are important anatomical
differences between the lateral
and medial claws of rear feet.
First, the outer claw of the rear
foot is larger and has a much
flatter weight-bearing surface.
This helps to create stability. The
inside claw is smaller and its
heel bulb and axial (inside) wall
are much less well-developed. As
a consequence, its weight bearing surface is sloped toward the
axial or inside wall (in other
words from the outside wall
toward the interdigital space).
Thus, when the cow steps forward and places her foot down,
weight shifts (or rolls over) from
the inside claw to the outside
claw. The result is greater
weight-bearing on the outside
claw that over time (particularly

on hard surfaces) leads to irritation of the corium and accelerated claw horn formation on the
outside claw.
During Movement. Ideally weight
bearing between the medial and
lateral claws should be equal.
However, this is not so for at
least two reasons: 1) the hips
distribute more weight to the lateral claw during side-to-side
movement, and 2) the udder
spreads the rear legs and naturally displaces more weight on
the lateral claws.
The hind legs of the cow are
connected to the pelvis through
a ball-and-socket joint. This creates a fairly rigid skeletal structure for support of the rear quarters and legs of the cow. When
viewed from the rear in an animal standing squarely on its
feet, one can visualize weight
distribution as being essentially
equal over all 4 claws of the rear
feet. However, during movement
the distribution of weight within
and between claws changes.
Despite movement, load-bearing on the inside claws is more
even (more stable). Outside

Michigan State Locomotion Evaluator

Locomotion Score Clinical Description



Stands and walks normally.

All feet placed with purpose.

Mildly Lame

Stands with a flat back, but arches the back

when walking. Gait is normal.

Moderately Lame

Stands and walks with an arched back.

Short strides with one or more legs.


Arched back while standing and walking.

One or more limbs favored but at least
partially weight bearing.

Severely Lame

Arched back, refuses to bear weight

on one limb. May refuse or have great
difficulty moving from a lying position.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 18

claws automatically and continuously correct for ever-changing

weight load. This circumstance
of ever-changing weight distribution is believed to be a major
reason for irritation of the corium that results in accelerated
claw horn growth and a higher
incidence of claw disorders
involving the outside claw.
Confinement on concrete or
other hard surfaces enhance the
physical effects of load-bearing
on feet, whereas housing on
earthen surfaces tends to reduce
these effects. In practice, when
cattle (especially heifers) are
moved from pasture to confinement, they may experience lameness due to a physical/mechanical form of laminitis. These
physical effects are further complicated by the fact that the
unyielding nature of hard-flooring surfaces tends to irritate the
corium, increasing its blood flow
and accelerating the growth of
claw horn. Excessive claw growth
(particularly of the outside claw
of rear feet) leads to overgrowth
and eventually overloading of the
affected claws. This causes the

cow discomfort which she

attempts to alleviate by taking a
base wide or cow-hocked posture. Despite changing her posture she continues to bear excess
weight on the outside claws. The
result is an increased risk of claw
disease in these overgrown and
overloaded claws.
Weight-Bearing in Front Feet.
The situation for front feet is different. Claws of the front foot are
similar to each other in size and
in terms of the stability of their
weight-bearing surfaces. Also,
there appears to be greater flexibility in the anatomical arrangement of the skeleton and soft tissues of the shoulder. Front legs
are not connected to the upper
body through a ball-and-socket
joint. Instead, front legs are connected to the torso by tendons
and ligaments that tend to cushion the effects of variable weight
distribution between the claws.
As a result the bio-mechanical
forces associated with variable
weight distribution are less pronounced in front feet and disorders leading to lameness less frequent.

Ideally, each claw should bear weight equally, as

in the diagram on the left. But on the hind legs,
the outer claw bears more weight and also overdevelops, as in the photo on the right .


Factors in the Development of
Lameness. Most overgrowth
occurs at the toe. When the toe
is long, the sole at the toe is
thick. This forces the weightbearing axis backward toward
the heel, often concentrating
weight-bearing forces over the
sole and heel ulcer sites. By
reducing length and sole thickness at the toe, one is able to
move the weight-bearing axis
forward and away from the sole
and heel ulcer sites, decreasing
the potential for ulcer development. (Trimming is described in
the following chapter).
Proper length of the front wall
of the inside claw of the rear foot
is approximately 3 inches (7.5
cm) in mature, average-sized
Holstein cows. This front wall
length corresponds to a sole
thickness of about 1/4 of an
inch (0.6 cm), believed to be the
minimum sole thickness required to protect the corium.
When front walls measure less
than 3 inches, sole thickness at

The photo shows the larger, more stable lateral

claw, as compared with the smaller, less stable
inside claw of the rear foot. On the front feet,
the claws are more similar in size, and the
weight-bearing surfaces are more stable. However, there is slightly more weight borne on the
inside claws of front feet, which contributes to
more lameness in these claws.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 19

surface of P3
This illustration on the left shows a rear view of the normal structure and suspension of bones within the claw.
Christoph Lischer, 12th Intl. Symp. on Lameness in Ruminants, 2002

the toe may be less than a 1/4 of

an inch and potentially unable to
support the weight of the cow on
hard flooring surfaces.
Since horn of the wall is harder and grows faster than the
sole, overgrowth of the abaxial
(outside) walls is a natural
occurrence in overgrown claws.
Similar to overgrowth occurring
at the toe, overgrowth of the
abaxial walls shifts weight-bearing forces onto the sole ulcer
site. The combined effect of overgrowth of the abaxial wall and
toe exaggerate weight-bearing

The above illustration shows elongation or stretching of

the suspensory apparatus (red), along with an extremely
roughened surface of the P3. The arrow indicates the sinking of the bone within the claw capsule.

over this area and significantly

increase the potential for a sole
ulcer to occur. Correction of
abaxial wall overgrowth displaces the weight-bearing forces
laterally, reducing the potential
for sole ulcer development.
It is for these reasons (overgrowth, overburdening and altered weight-bearing) that the claws
of dairy cattle require regular
evaluation and trimming as necessary. In some cases the rate of
horn wear is in balance with the
rate of horn growth, despite the
effects of weight-bearing, and

trimming is not required. In

other cases horn growth exceeds
the rate of wear, and trimming is
required to correct weight-bearing disparities. In some free-stall
housed dairy cattle, the rate of
wear may exceed the rate of claw
horn growth and trimming only
exacerbates an already serious
problem. Proper foot care and
claw trimming requires an
understanding of the anatomy of
the foot and the dynamics of
claw horn growth.



Stands with flat back, but
arches when walks. Gait is
slightly abnormal.

Clinical Description:
Mildly Lame

Locomotion Score

Stands and walks
normally. All feet placed with

Clinical Description:

Locomotion Score

Back Posture Standing: Flat

Back Posture Standing: Flat

Back Posture Walking: Arched

Back Posture Walking: Flat

12:35 PM

* Adapted from Sprecher, D.J.; Hostetler, D.E.; Kaneene, J.B. 1997. Theriogenology 47:1178-1187.

Animal observations should be made on a flat surface that provides good

footing for cows. Cows scoring 2 or 3 should be examined and trimmed to
prevent more serious problems. Trimming should be done by a competent
trimmer with the goal of returning the claws to functional weight bearing and


Locomotion scoring is based on the observation of cows standing and

walking (gait), with special emphasis on their back posture. This system is
intuitive and, therefore, easy to learn and implement. Use of locomotion
scoring is effective for early detection of claw (hoof) disorders,
monitoring prevalence of lameness, comparing the incidence and severity of
lameness between herds and identifying individual cows for functional claw
(hoof) trimming.

Locomotion Scoring of Dairy Cattle*

Foot careITC
Page 20

Arched back, refuses to bear
weight on one limb. May
refuse or have great difficulty
moving from lying position.

Clinical Description:
Severely Lame

Locomotion Score

Arched back standing and
walking. One or more limbs
favored but at least partially
weight bearing.

Clinical Description:

Back Posture Standing: Arched

Back Posture Standing: Arched

Back Posture Walking: Arched

Back Posture Walking: Arched

Back Posture Walking: Arched

12:35 PM

Locomotion Score

Back Posture Standing: Arched


Stands and walks with an
arched back. Short strides
with one or more legs.

Clinical Description:
Moderately Lame

Locomotion Score

Foot careITC
Page 21


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 22

Chapter 3
Claw trimming
If there is no lameness problem, trimming
can produce it.
E. Toussaint Raven

lthough footcare and claw

trimming have an important
role in the management of lameness conditions, experience has
shown that claw trimming can
be a cause for lameness. The
most common error is over-trimming. It is important to remember that the primary purpose of
the claw horn capsule is to protect the underlying corium.
When excess claw horn has been
removed and the sole is no
longer able to properly support
the cows body weight, the
underlying corium becomes subject to damage from bruising.
This results in lameness that is
difficult to manage, particularly
when cows are housed on concrete or another hard surface.
Thin soles arising from the
housing of cows on abrasive
floors may also put the corium at
risk from bruising and in the
worst case, open exposure from
excessive wear. As will be mentioned later, thin soles in dairy
cattle represent one of the most
difficult of foot problems to manage. The functional and corrective trimming method as described by E. Toussaint Raven
provides important guidelines
for the maintenance of proper
toe length and sole thickness.
These guidelines are useful to
prevent trimming-related lameness. But first, a look at the traditional approach to claw trimming.


Traditional claw trimming
techniques applied to cattle are
based largely on procedures used
by farriers and others trimming
the hooves of horses, whereby
weight is transferred primarily to
the hoof wall. Application of this
same technique to the cow would
consist of shortening the axial
wall and sloping or cupping out
the sole in order to place the
majority of weight on the abaxial
(outside) wall. This is problematic in that underdevelopment of
the axial wall and sloping of the
sole toward the axial (inside) wall
are primary reasons for instability of the medial claw of the rear
foot under natural conditions.
Removal of the axial wall in both
claws only worsens instability in
the foot. Furthermore, transfer of
weight-bearing to the abaxial
walls naturally increases pressure and shearing forces on the
walls and white line. This could
increase the risk of white line
separation and thus white line
Based on the work of
Toussaint Raven, sloping of the
soles in an axial direction may
also encourage the development
of sole ulcers by shifting weightbearing within the claw onto the
typical site for sole ulcers. Also,
when the soles of claws are
sloped axially, claws are encouraged to splay apart when weight
is borne on the foot. This causes
stretching and irritation of the
interdigital skin and is believed

by some to contribute to interdigital fibromas (corns) in cattle.

Finally, traditional trimming
techniques generally make little
or no attempt to balance weightbearing within or between the
claws of each foot. Studies on
the pathogenesis of sole ulcers
and white line disease clearly
show that claw overgrowth leads
to disproportionate weight-bearing and eventually claw disease.
Therefore, the reestablishment of
appropriate weight-bearing within and between claws would
seem to be an important objective in claw trimming.
The normal rate of horn
growth is relatively slow at about
1/4-inch (5 to 7mm) per month.
Overall shape of the claw is a
product of the rate of growth versus the rate of wear. Overgrowth
is more or less a natural consequence of feeding and housing
conditions common to intensive
dairy production. The effect of
hoof overgrowth is overloading
and instability, particularly of
the lateral claws of rear and the
medial claws of front feet.
Regular trimming may be needed
to correct this.
Overgrowth is manifested primarily at the toe. Wall horn is
harder, and the rate of wear is
less at the toe. In contrast, horn
of the heel is softer, and the rate
of wear (weight-bearing is great-

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 23

er) is more rapid. The result is a

lengthening and raising of the
toe with a corresponding lowering of the heel. The angle of the
front wall may be altered from
the normal of 45 degrees to 35
degrees or less. Overgrowth also
occurs on the sole. Humans
develop calluses on the weightbearing areas of their feet (balls
of the foot, heel and outer part of
the foot). Cows dont develop calluses; instead they produce
more horn on the soles of the
weight-bearing claws (i.e. lateral
claw of rear and medial claw of
front feet).
The dynamics of horn growth
are accelerated for cows that
have experienced laminitis or for
those housed on concrete or
other hard flooring surfaces. The
purpose of foot trimming is to reestablish appropriate weightbearing within and between the
claws of all four feet.
Most cows will benefit from
checking feet with trimming as
necessary once or twice a year.
Cows with corkscrew claws or
those that have experienced
laminitis are prone to accelerated growth of horn which may
require trimming more than
twice per year. Many operations
trim cows one time at dry-off.
Considering the effects of feed-

ing, housing and laminitis on

hoof overgrowth, one could justify trimming, or at least evaluating the need for trimming, at
mid-lactation or preferably two
times per year at roughly 6month intervals. It is obviously
more risky to trim cows during
mid-lactation. However, trimming at dry-off only assures that
some cows will go well beyond
one year before being evaluated
for trimming. Depending upon
housing conditions and the
prevalence of laminitis, problems
with claw horn overgrowth and
claw disease are near-certain for
herds which evaluate cows for
trimming at dry-off only.
The functional trimming technique described here is a modification of E. Toussaint Ravens
method. Instead of a 3-step procedure, we recommend 4 steps
in order to give extra emphasis
to heel balance. Our experience
with training people in foot care
and claw trimming has shown
that many tend to over-trim the
inside claw heel when a 3-step
procedure is used. It is the opinion of these authors that by having people balance heels as a
separate step, most are more
able to meet the objectives established by Toussaint Raven.
Therefore, we outline the proce-

dure for trimming feet as 4

Functional Steps and 2 Corrective Trimming Steps.
The objectives of preventive
claw trimming are:
1. Correction of the relative
overgrowth that leads to overburdening of the claw (as
described earlier, overgrowth is
most significant for the outside
claw of rear feet and inside claw
of front feet).
2. Restoration of the appropriate weight-bearing surface within each claw and balance
between both claws.
3. Correction of claw lesions at
an early stage.
Observe the size of the cow
and determine if she is small,
average or large. Next, determine
the length of the claws. Since the
inner hind claw represents the
more normal claw, this claw is
used as a model for the more
abnormal (overgrown) outer
claw. The front wall of the medial
(inner) claw should be no less
than 3 inches long (from approximately midway down the periople to the tip of the toe). This
length of 3 inches (7.5 cm) is

(LEFT) STEP 1. Determine the length

of the inner hind claw. A length of 3
inches is an ideal for an averagesized Holstein, but make allowances for larger or smaller animals.
(RIGHT) Reduce the length of the
inner claw if needed.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 24

taken as the correct front wall

length for the average sized
Holstein-Friesian cow. When
trimming larger cows or bulls,
always extend this length by an
appropriate length (i.e. 1/8- to
1/4-inch, 3 to 6 mm). Thickness
of the sole should be a minimum
of a 1/4 inch. In general, when
the front wall measures 3 inches
in length (before cutting), one
should assure the sole is approximately 1/4 inch thick. In such
cases, no trimming is required
for Step 1 and the operator simply proceeds to Step 2.
However, when there is excess
toe length the operator continues by first reducing the length
of the inner claw to the 3-inch
length as described. Next, the
bearing surface (sole and wall
but not the heel) is stabilized
on the inner hind claw. In other
words, the bearing surface of the
toe and wall is pared flat so that
it will be at right angles to the
long axis of the shin (cannon)
bone in the standing position.
This will ensure that the cow has
a flat and stable weight-bearing
surface on a flat hard floor.
Another important guideline
for assuring proper thickness of
the sole at the toe is to cease
paring of the sole just as the
white line begins to re-connect in
the toe. This usually corresponds to the point at which the
squared end of the toe is 1/4inch (6 mm) thick. Using the 3(TOP) STEP 1. After reducing the toe
to 3 inches, the thickness of the sole
should be a minimum of 1/4-inch.
(CENTER) The weight-bearing surface
(sole and wall but not the heel) is stabilized on the inner hind claw, ensuring a flat and stable surface. Note in
the circle that the white line is not reconnected.
(LOWER) Spare as much of the heel
on the medial claw as possible. In the
circle note that the white line now is
reconnected at the toe.


inch (7.5 cm) wall length guideline with these important sole
thickness parameters helps one
avoid overtrimming the inside
claws sole.
Spare as much of the heel on
the medial claw as possible.
Since lesions in the outer claw
are the more frequent circumstance, preservation of the heel
on the inner claw is desired in
the event that it is necessary to
provide rest to the outer claw by
increasing weight-bearing on the
inside claw heel.
A proper dorsal wall length (at
least 3 inches or 7.5 to 8.0 cm)
will ensure adequate sole thickness particularly at the toe
where sole thickness of at least a
1/4-inch (5 to7 mm) is required.
The sole in this area should not
give under finger pressure. If it
does, it may indicate that the
sole has been trimmed too thin.
Thin soles subject the underlying corium to bruising or a
through, particularly at the
white line. Exposure of the corium often leads to grave consequences for the claw.
Using the medial claw just
trimmed as a guide, trim the toe
of the outer claw (rear foot) to the
same length. Next, pare the
weight-bearing surface (of the
sole) of the outside claw to the
same level as that of the medial
claw when the front walls are
held together. The outer claw is
trimmed to the same level as the
inner claw both at the toe and at
the heel. Again, the bearing surface should be flat and balanced
with the inner claw. Leaving a
damaged outer claw higher than
the inner claw will probably lead
to lameness. It is for this reason
that the inner claw heel is preserved. When complete, the
weight-bearing surfaces should
be flat and balanced at the toe.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 25

(TOP LEFT) STEP 2. Using the

medial claw as a guide, trim
the toe of the outer rear claw
to the same length.
(CENTER LEFT) Next, pare
the weight-bearing sole surface of the outer claw to the
same level as the medial
claw. Note that the front walls
of each claw are equalized.
(LOWER LEFT) Check that the
weight-bearing surface across
both toes is flat.


and slope the sole so that the
innermost back portion of the
sole slopes toward the center
of the claws. Proper sloping of
the sole in this region reduces
pressure in the sole-ulcer site
area and helps prevent trapping of dirt and manure in the
interdigital space.
remove important weightbearing surface on the axial
portion of the toe.
Balance the weight-bearing
surfaces of the heels by laying the knife handle, as
shown, while making a 90
degree angle with the long
axis of the leg. The weightbearing surfaces should be
balanced: in this case, the
outside claw heel is higher.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 26

Shape and slope the sole so
that the innermost back portion
of the sole slopes toward the center of the claws. Care should be
taken to avoid paring away
important weight-bearing surface at the toe. Excessive cupping or sloping of the sole should
be avoided because it reduces
the weight-bearing surface area
to the outside walls. This is one
of the most common errors in
foot trimming. Proper sloping of
the sole in this region is designed
to reduce pressure in the soleulcer site area and open the
interdigital space between the
claws. Overgrowth of the sole
which occludes the interdigital
space causes dirt and manure to
be entrapped between the claws.
This increases the likelihood of
interdigital disease.
Balance the heels. Weightbearing surfaces should be flat
at the toes, along the walls, and
across the heels. This insures an
weight within and between the
claws and completes the trimming process in feet where further corrective trimming procedures are unnecessary.
The basic principles of corrective trimming are described in
Steps 5 and 6. These steps are
the therapeutic or curative trimming procedures.

(TOP) STEP 4. Balance the heels.

CENTER) Check for an even surface
along the walls.
(LOWER) Weight-bearing surfaces
should be flat along the walls and
across the heels.


Pare the damaged claw lower
toward the heel to increase
weight-bearing on the healthy
claw. In most cases the damaged
claw will be the outside claw of
rear and the medial claw of front
feet. Lowering the damaged claw
reduces weight-bearing and
thereby permits recovery and
eventual return to normal function and health. In many cases it
is necessary to apply a claw

(TOP) STEP 5. A claw block on the

healthy claw reduces weight on the
diseased claw, giving it opportunity to
(LOWER) STEP 6. Here a sole ulcer
requires therapeutic trimming.
Remove all loose and damaged horn.
Avoid injury to the corium. The damaged claw also is pared lower toward
the heel to increase weight-bearing on
the healthy claw.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 27

block to the healthy claw in

order to reduce weight-bearing
in the damaged claw.
Presence of claw horn lesions
requires further corrective trimming. Remove all loose and
necrotic (dead, black) horn tissue, irrespective of how extensive it is (sole separation), and
pare away hard ridges (heel horn
erosion). Only healthy claw horn
should be left in place.
The cows claw has a remarkable capacity to heal itself.
However, once infection has penetrated into the deeper structures, the problem becomes progressively more serious and is
often completely unresponsive to
antibiotic treatment. By applying
both timely and proper corrective trimming techniques, these
complications can be prevented,
and complete healing can occur
with full return to functional
weight-bearing. Additional guidelines for corrective trimming
include the following:
1. Proper restraint of the animal and the limb in either a
stand-up leg chute or a tilt-over
2. The whole foot, including
the interdigital space, should be
well cleaned for inspection.
3. Sharp hoof knives are
absolutely essential in corrective
trimming. The removal of loose
horn, especially that lying up
against the corium, cannot be
done safely with dull knives.
When the cutting edge is dull,
the operator is forced to pull or
push the knife with greater force.
The potential for trauma increases as the knife may inadvertently
slip or come in contact with
healthy tissue. The result is
undesired damage to the corium,
which creates excessive hemorrhage and complicates further
corrective trimming. Excessive
damage to the corium and associated soft tissues also leads to
delayed healing.

4. Corrective trimming always should follow functional

trimming. This balances weightbearing within and between the
claws, and in the process provides greater visibility of claw
lesions. In cases where a claw
horn lesion is not observed, one
may use a hoof tester to examine
for the presence of pain. A hoof
tester allows one to apply pressure to areas of the claw suspected of having a claw lesion.
(See illstration at right).
5. Loose, undermined horn is
always removed, taking care not
to damage normal underlying
soft tissues, particularly the
corium (i.e. stop when trimming
leads to bleeding of the corium).
Loose horn is removed to the
point at which re-attachment of
the corium and horn layer is
reached. Never dig holes or
troughs into the sole, as this will
only facilitate impaction of
manure which may further
aggravate the problem. Always
slope horn away from the lesion.
For example, remove the outside
wall adjacent to white line
lesions and slope horn toward
the interdigital space when
applying corrective trimming
procedures to sole ulcers.
6. Adjust weight bearing to
relieve pain and pressure on
damaged claws. Complete relief
of weight-bearing is accomplished through the use of claw
blocks. Blocks are placed on the
weight-bearing surface of the
sound claw, elevating the diseased claw. Partial removal of
weight bearing from the affected
claw can be achieved by lowering
the sole and/or heel adjacent to
the interdigital space to about
1/4-inch (6 mm) below the level
of that of the opposite claw. This
will transfer weight to the
healthy claw, allowing the diseased claw time for rest and
7. Pain relief is very important
in corrective trimming. Cows
exhibit lameness because of the

presence of pain, and cows with

pain produce less milk. When a
cow is in chronic pain or has
painful procedures done to her,
her pain threshold becomes
lower and her response to pain
becomes exaggerated. The soft
tissues of the foot, particularly
the corium, are very sensitive to
painful procedures. Local anesthesia should be used for complicated or prolonged corrective
trimming procedures. In some
cases post-operative pain medications such as aspirin may be
necessary. Readers are advised
to consult with their veterinarians for further advice on pain
management when dealing with
foot problems.
8. The application of protective bandages is another consideration when corrective trim-

The hoof tester is a device used to

find areas of sensitivity or pain within
the claw. By applying pressure and
noting the cows response, you can
find specific areas of the claw warranting closer examination.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 28

ming techniques are practiced.

Bandages that cannot be kept
clean serve very little purpose, as
they rapidly absorb manure-contaminated water. Bandages are
most useful in situations where
control of bleeding is required. If
a bandage is required, it should
be changed on a regular basis,
preferably every 2 to 3 days. In
general, materials that tend to
soak up moisture should not be
used, for example, cotton gauze
or roll cotton.
Corrective trimming procedures include those that involve
the claw horn and deeper sensitive tissues. Lesions that involve
the deeper structures of the foot
require a sound knowledge of the
anatomy of the foot and should
be attended to by a veterinarian.
Corkscrew claw is a hereditary
condition affecting both front
and hind claws, but primarily
the outer claws of rear feet. It
results from a mal-alignment
and angulation of the middle (P2)

and distal (P3) phalanges. The

upper and lower joint surfaces of
P2 may be out of alignment by as
much as 11 degrees. P3 is often
abnormally long, narrow and
curved on its outside margin.
As a result, the ventral surface of P3 is not flat but angled
downward along its outside margin. These anatomical abnormalities often result in excessive pressure on the corium in
the abaxial (outside) sole/white
line junction area near the toe
which may be exhibited by solar
hemorrhage in this area. Because of this angulation the sole
may also be thinner (outside
sole/white line junction).
Extreme care should be taken
not to over-trim the corkscrew
claw in this area. The mal-alignment between P2 and P3 as well
as the curvature of the third
phalanx causes a lateral to
medial deviation of the outside
wall whereby the wall curls
under the sole, replacing some of
the normal weight-bearing surface of the sole. This deviation of
the outside wall results in curling of the toe with characteristic
corkscrew formation.

Corkscrew claw is a hereditary condition, primarily affecting the rear outer

claws. The photo on the LEFT shows rotation of the claw as viewed from the
front. The photo on the RIGHT shows extreme overgrowth and rotation of the
claw, resulting in extension of the wall onto the weight-bearing surface, typical
of claws with this deformity.


Corkscrew claws should be

laminitic claw changes. The
characteristic changes associated with corkscrew claws include
the following: 1) the outside wall
is not perpendicular to the
ground surface but instead curls
under the sole, displacing the
sole upward and toward the
interdigital space. In this position the outside wall becomes
part of the weight-bearing surface, while the toe becomes elevated and rotated. Furthermore,
the inside wall is not perpendicular, but instead becomes folded. The heel is usually significantly overgrown and nearly
always higher than the adjacent
The corrective trimming procedure for corkscrew claw is the
1. Straighten the dorsal (front)
wall of the corkscrew claw
(Watch out for hemorrhage and
stop if bleeding occurs).
2. Remove the curve and fold
of the inside wall at the toe.
3. Reduce the dorsal wall
length to 10 cm, or 4 inches
(rather than 3 inches as the case
for normal claws), then reduce
the length in 1/4-inch increments until the toe is reduced to
3-1/4 inches (8.25 cm), unless
hemorrhage occurs.
4. Balance both toe and heel
with that of the opposite claw.
5. The corkscrew claw nearly
always has a higher heel: do not
lower the heel on the opposite
claw. Otherwise, it will not be
possible to balance the claws at
the heel.
6. The sole of the corkscrew
claw, particularly on the outside
wall near the toe, can easily be
over-trimmed and made too
thin, often resulting in hemorrhage. This is one of the most
common complications in the
trimming of corkscrew claws.
When it occurs, it is often necessary to apply a claw block to the
opposite claw.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 29

7. The horn on corkscrew

claws grows at an accelerated
rate compared with normal
claws. Therefore, cows with
corkscrew claws should be
examined and trimmed as necessary 3 times per year.

Laminitis results in disrupted
horn formation that leads to
abnormal formation of the tubular and non-tubular horn within
the claw. It is most often exhibited as a flaring or deviation of the
wall due to loss of the wall horns
weight-bearing. Concavity and
deviation of the dorsal wall (the
toe) is caused by hardship
grooves which tend to change
the angle of growth of the dorsal
wall. This is further aggravated
by an increase in laminar horn
production associated with rotation of the third phalanx.
Corrective trimming of the
abnormal wall constitutes a
remodeling of the shape of the
claw capsule. This requires
straightening the dorsal wall and
removing the abaxial laminitic
flare in the wall. A curve of the
axial wall at the toe which is also
1. The front wall of the corkscrew
claw is not straight. Therefore, once
excessive toe length is reduced, its
necessary to straighten the wall
before completing the trimming procedure.

usually present can be removed

but care should be taken not to
remove the axial white line.
Finally, care should be taken to
not reduce the dorsal wall length
to less than 3 inches (7.5 cm).
This will ensure a sole thickness
of 1/4-inch (6mm) at the toe.
Cows should have their claws
checked at least twice per year
for the presence of claw horn
overgrowth that may contribute
to inappropriate weight-bearing.
The evaluation should also
include an examination for early
claw lesions. Foot checking
twice per year to correct overgrowth and identify early lesions
will help to prevent problems
that may result in lameness.
However, it is incorrect to
assume that all cows (or all feet)
need trimming beyond minor
adjustments to correct weightbearing. In some situations,
cows are trimmed 2 or 3 times
per year whether they need it or
not. Trimming normal feet is
costly and may actually jeopardize foot health, especially for
cows on abrasive concrete surfaces where subsequent wear
may create thin soles that could
lead to serious problems. On the
other hand, cows with corkscrew
claws or laminitis would likely
benefit from checking and trim-

2. Here the front wall is straightened

through the use of an angle grinder.
3. Once the wall is straight, the functional trimming sequence as
described under Functional Trimming (page 23) can continue.

4. and 5. Exposure of the corium in

the toe region is a potential complication when trimming the sole of the
corkscrew claw. Trimmers are
advised to use caution when trimming such claws. If the corium is
exposed, a block on the non-affected
claw will likely be needed.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 30

ming (as needed) as

much as 3 or even 4
because of the accelerated rates of claw
accompany these conditions.
The message to take
home is simply this
check claws for overgrowth and lesions,
but dont trim feet that
dont need it. Its costly and may increase
the likelihood of lameness if cows are overtrimmed.

(TOP) Stand-up chutes have the advantage of

giving a better view of the claws for assessing balance of weight-bearing surfaces, particularly at the heel.
(LOWER) Tilt-tables offer great convenience,
but padding the shoulder area may be needed to reduce the possibility of radial nerve


Foot work is hard
work, dirty, and nearly always takes longer
than expected. At
least two things can
change ones enthusiasm for foot work:
proper restraint facilities and a sharp hoof
There are a broad
range of restraint
methods from simple
manual techniques to
very elaborate devices.
The best restraint

method is one that safely immobilizes the foot for good view of
the claws and interdigital space
while at the same time providing
the operator free range of movement for paring the claws.
Rope or Manual Restraint. The
manual methods for restraint of
rear feet usually involve use of a
rope tied in a slip-knot above the
hock. The free end of the lariat is
wrapped around a supporting
structure above the cow so that
the leg may be raised perpendicularly (to a point approximately
a hands width from the hock to
the pin bone). The cow retains
four points of support and the
operator is relieved from holding
the weight of the leg.
Although this method or a
variation is used by many veterinary practitioners out of necessity, it provides less than ideal
restraint. This is particularly
true for prolonged or painful procedures since the foot is not
completely immobilized and the
cow still has the ability to resist
or move her leg sufficiently to
create difficulty for the operator.
The latter problem is especially
true for restraint of front legs.
Tying a front foot off to a stall
divider (in tie-stall or stanchion
barns) may provide better
restraint but has the potential to
result in injury if the cow accidentally falls or elects to lie
down. Restraint of front legs is
better accomplished in the following systems.
Stand-up Chute. One of the
more popular restraint systems
is the stand-up trimming
hydraulic versions of stand-up
chutes are available. This
restraint device is preferred by
those who are accustomed to, or
more comfortable with, trimming
cows in the standing position.
The standing position has an
advantage in that it permits better view of the claws for the
assessment of balance between

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 31

the weight-bearing surfaces of

each claw, particularly at the
Most stand-up chutes are
designed with a head-catch,
belly bands, and leg restraint
systems to secure both the front
and rear feet in a convenient
position for trimming procedures. The head catch should be
designed so that the potential for
choke is avoided. Belly bands are
used to support the cow in the
event that she decides to lie
down once a foot is lifted into
position for trimming. Cows that
refuse to support themselves
must be monitored carefully to
avoid temporary or even permanent damage to the brachial
nerve plexus in the axillary
(armpit) region or to scapular
nerves. (See Chapter 5, Upper
Leg Lameness).
Rear leg restraints are generally secured just above the fetlock. From this point, by means
of a crank system, the leg is
pulled posteriorly and upward to
a comfortable working position.
The front leg restraints function
in similar fashion by attaching
above the fetlock so that the foot
may be pulled upward and outward slightly for proper trimming access.
Tilt Table. Some consider the
tilt-table to be slightly more efficient for a single person to operate than manual versions of the
stand-up-type chute due to the
fact that once the cow is in the
tilted position all feet are readily
accessible for trimming procedures. In a manually operated
stand-up chute, the operator
must work both sides of the
chute and each foot must be
secured individually immediately
prior to trimming. As with the
stand-up chute, the tilt-table
provides excellent visibility and
convenience for routine trimming with one exception: the
evaluation of heel balance
between claws.
The angle at which the opera-

There are several types of knives used in hoof trimming. Selection depends on
personal preference and method used for knife sharpening.

tor must view the claws along

with the unnatural positioning of
the cow and slope of the tilt-table
complicate this assessment. The
operator must make a special
effort to view claws from the rear
to properly assess balance
between the weight-bearing surfaces of each claw.
Radial nerve paralysis is an
occasional problem with tilttables, particularly for cows that
have been restrained for prolonged periods. Cows that struggle or thrash in the chute also
may cause significant trauma to
their head and neck. These
problems may be relieved in part
by placing a rubber pad or cushion in the area of the chute
where the shoulder rests as well
as the headboard and adjacent
structures. The potential for
radial nerve damage also may be
reduced by securing the down
front leg in a more forward position (See Chapter 5).
With respect to examination
and treatment procedures, all of
the above restraint systems provide good visibility of the sole
and the up-side (the sky-side) of
feet. Conditions involving the
down-side (the earth-side) of feet
are less easily visualized and
thus harder to work on. Which

system causes greater stress or

discomfort for the cow is the
subject of frequent debate
between stand-up chute and tilttable users. Although there are
no definitive answers to this
question, at least one study suggests that there is little or no difference between the two restraint systems with respect to
the issue of stress. Restraint
alone (regardless of style or type
of chute) causes a significant elevation in blood cortisol levels,
indicative of stress.
If I had 8 hours to chop down
a tree, Id spend 6 hours sharpening my ax.
Abraham Lincoln
A sharp knife is a prerequisite
to foot care and claw trimming,
and like most things requires the
proper tools, some basic understanding of the technique of
sharpening knives, and practice.
There are at least 3 methods to
sharpen knives: whet stones,
files, and bench grinders fitted
with sharpening and buffing
wheels. The system which works
best depends upon the type of
knife to be sharpened (i.e. hard-


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 32

ness of the steel), and personal

preference. Generally speaking,
knives composed of softer metals
are easier to sharpen by any of
the three methods listed. However, they do become dull faster.
Thus, some prefer knives made
with harder metals. The disadvantage with harder metal
knives is that they are also more
difficult to sharpen and may
require sharpening by means of
a sharpening stone or bench

For detailed description of the

sharpening procedure, see the
Appendix III.
Hoof nippers are used to
remove excess toe length and
abaxial wall horn. The hoof nipper is preferred for the removal
of wall horn because of the
mechanical advantage it offers
for the removal of hard horn.
There are several versions or

Here are two types of hoof nippers. The pair on the left are made of hardened
steel. Some use these for the majority of their trimming work. Those on the
right are a popular style used by farriers and cattle trimmers alike.

Grinding and chipping wheels come in several styles. Removal of excessive

bulk horn is best achieved with a chipper-type wheel. Grinding wheels are best
used for conditions requiring minimal horn removal or as a tool to prepare
claws for application of claw blocks.


types of nippers and the choice

of one over another is based on
personal preference. The farriertype nipper (see photo) is the
popular choice of many trimmers. They are durable and
remain sharp despite extended
use on many claws. The larger
nipper shown in the photo is
preferred by others because of
the mechanical advantage it
offers for the removal of the very
thick, hard horn encountered in
severely overgrown claws. The
larger nippers also provide some
advantages for the removal of
claw blocks. In consideration of
the fact that block removal is an
important foot care procedure,
people who do a lot of foot work
could easily justify having both
types of nippers.
Many trimmers use a version
of the large nippers for all trimming, including paring the sole.
As with the use of knives or
angle grinders for trimming of
the weight-bearing surfaces of
claws, use of nippers for this
purpose requires great skill to
accomplish the desired objectives.
Certain types of housing or
environmental conditions create
tremendous challenges to those
who trim primarily or solely with
a hoof knife. For example, cows
in dry lot housing or those in tie
or comfort stalls may develop
very dry and hard claw horn. As
a consequence, many trimmers
revert to the use of an angle
grinder fitted with a grinding
disc or chipper-type wheel.
There are many versions from
mild to extremely aggressive (i.e.,
remove horn very rapidly).
In general, chipper wheels
may be reserved for use with
those claws which require significant
Grinding discs are best used on
claws where lesser amounts of

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 33

Here a claw is being trimmed with a chipper-type wheel.

horn removal are required. The

grinding disc may also be used
to prepare claws for block application. These authors suggest
having both grinding and chipper wheels available for use as
Angle grinders are a very useful tool in the hands of competent trimmers. It must be
stressed, however, that they are
extremely dangerous for cows as
well as trimmers. For persons
starting out, we advise the use of
grinding wheels fitted with abrasive discs. Gradually one may
change to the use of less aggressive and then more aggressive
chipper-type wheels as necessary.
It is also advisable to start
with a cadaver specimen or a
block of soft wood when beginning to use an angle grinder
before progressing to live cows.
The use of protective eyewear
and a face mask to protect the
operator from the inhalation of
fine contaminants dispersed into
the air by the grinding or chipping wheels is strongly recommended. Finally, since use of an
angle grinder poses additional
risks, operators are advised to
wear hand (wire mesh or leather
gloves) and arm protection.

The application of corrective
trimming procedures to adjust
weight bearing will often provide
a sufficient difference in height
between the two claws to relieve
weight-bearing and promote
recovery of claw lesions. However, when pain is severe or one
is unable to create sufficient difference in height between the
two claws, additional elevation of
the diseased claw can be
achieved by means of a block
attached to the sound claw.
Proper application of foot blocks
requires attention to the following:
1. Start by properly trimming
the claws according to the stepwise procedure outlined previously. Before attaching a block

to the healthy claw, the claw

must be pared flat and in the
proper plane. This will provide a
bearing surface that is at right
angles to the long axis of the
cannon bone.
2. Prepare the claw with a
rasp or grinder so that the adhesive will properly adhere to the
wall and sole of the claw being
fitted for the block.
3. Mix the adhesive to the
proper consistency and apply to
the block and claw as needed.
4. Apply the block and position it so that it lies flat on the
sole and provides proper support
of the heel. Failure to properly
position the block is one of the
most common mistakes made in
applying blocks.
5. Be sure that adhesive is
cleared away from the area
between the block and the heel.
Heel horn is very soft and can
easily be damaged by the hard
and sometimes very sharp edges
of fully cured adhesive material.
6. Remove blocks after a period of 4 to 6 weeks. Blocks that
cause discomfort prior to then
should be removed sooner.
7. After removing a block,
always re-trim the foot to remove
necrotic or loose horn and adjust
weight-bearing as needed to prevent pain and promote a more
rapid recovery.
Correction of horn lesions
often results in small or moder-

There are several types of claw blocks. All have an application in foot care.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 34

ate exposure of the corium. In

general, most agree that minor
lesions or injuries to the corium
are best left untreated and without a bandage. More severe
lesions in which there may be
large areas of the corium
exposed may benefit from topical
treatment with a mild disinfectant or antibiotic under a bandage with the proviso that it be
removed within 3 to 5 days. The
direct application of caustic
treatment materials on open
lesions with exposed corium
should be avoided.
If it is the practice of the dairy
to allow bandages to fall off on
their own, then we feel it is better to omit the bandage from the
start. The environment of most
cows is such that bandages
become very contaminated within a couple of days. It is doubtful
that they offer significant therapeutic benefit beyond this point.
Indeed, a Cornell study comparing cows with claw lesions with a
wrap verses no wrap indicates
no advantage to the application
of a bandage.
On the other hand, a bandage
is advised for cases where there
is severe bleeding of the corium
or other tissues. Bandages are
also advised for treatment of
lesions of digital dermatitis and
for postoperative care of surgical
cases such as claw amputation.
As suggested above, these
should be changed every 2 to 3
days at a minimum depending
upon the degree of environmen-


tal contamination. Every attempt

should be made to house animals having had such procedures in a clean, dry environment. If possible, these animals
should be routed around, rather
than through, footbaths containing caustic or otherwise irritating solutions.
All dairies (regardless of size)
should have appropriate handling and restraint facilities for
the treatment of lame cows.
Herds of 250 or more cows
should have a tilt table or standup trimming-type chute, as well
as needed equipment (knives,
sharpening devices, hoof nippers
and angle grinders) and properly
trained personnel to examine
and treat lame cows on a daily
basis. Routine maintenance
trimming may be left to the services of a commercial trimmer or
conducted by on-farm employees
at the discretion of the dairy.
Proper skills in foot care and
claw trimming require supervised training and practice.
Dairymen are encouraged to
invest in training programs
either for themselves, or for their
employees who are responsible
for foot care and claw trimming
duties. The basis of this recommendation comes from past
experience and a knowledge of
foot conditions which clearly
indicates that timely (e.g. daily)

foot care and treatment of lame

cows will reduce the number of
cows lost from irreparable foot
disease. In some cases, dairies
turn lame cows out into a lot
where they remain until a commercial hoof trimmer or veterinarian can attend to them on a
weekly or monthly visit. In these
situations, cows may go untreated for several days or weeks
depending upon the scheduled
visit. The time lag from original
insult to examination and treatment permits treatable lameness
conditions to progress to the
point of irreparable damage that
often results in premature
culling of affected animals. This
is not only costly, but inhumane
as well.
Lameness conditions are particularly painful. Beyond reducing losses in performance and
avoiding the possibility of premature culling, prompt treatment of animals affected with
lameness also prevents needless
suffering. Estimated initial investment for dairy operations
that choose to commit to the
employment of an on-farm trimmer (including chute, foot care
equipment and training) may
range from $5000 to $20,000 (in
US dollars) depending upon the
type of chute purchased. Considering the present-day replacement cow costs in the US, a foot
care program that will facilitate
daily foot care is easily justified.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 35

Chapter 4
Causes of lameness

aminitis, also known as

founder, is a diffuse inflammation of the corium (the dermis
or sensitive tissues) of the claw.
The disease occurs as acute,
chronic and subclinical conditions.
The acute form of laminitis
occurs sporadically, although
incidence seems to be highest for
first lactation animals within the
first 60 to 90 days of lactation.
Clinical signs include pain and
extreme reluctance to walk.
Horses will stand with forefeet
placed forward whereas cattle
typically stand with their back

arched and feet placed more

beneath them (the so-called
camped under position). Most
animals spend the majority of
time lying down. Discomfort and
pain can be exaggerated by forcing the affected animal to rise.
Redness, swelling and tenderness above the coronary band
and over the bulbs of the heel
are sometimes noticeable. If the
animal will permit, one may be
able to feel increased heat
through the walls of the hoof and
over the coronet. Practical therapy includes treatment for pain.
Unfortunately, there are few
options in cattle beyond aspirin
and movement of the animal to a
grass pasture, dirt lot, well-bed-

diagram courtesy of Zinpro Corp.,

adapted from Nocek, 1997

ded stall, or an area free of concrete and gravel or stone.

Clinical signs associated with
the chronic form of laminitis are
mild and undetectable with the
exception of noticeable hoof wall
changes that occur over time.
With chronic laminitis, claws
widen, flatten and develop characteristic
sometimes referred to as hardship grooves or (growth arrest
lines). Lesions of the corium are
similar to those described above
for the acute form of laminitis,
but they occur more gradually,
resulting in less obvious signs of
The subclinical form of laminitis is most common and consequently one of the more significant forms of this disease.
Clinical signs typical of laminitis
are absent. Subclinical laminitis
is a syndrome associated with a
number of lesions, in addition to
generally reduced strength and
hardness of the claw horn.
Poor horn quality predisposes
the foot to an increased rate of
claw horn wear, decreased blood
flow, greater risk of solar injury
and bruising, and a heightened
potential for bacterial invasion of
the hoof, particularly through
the white line. As a result, lameness due to white line disease
and/or ulcers of the toe, sole and
heel may increase in affected
herds. When lameness increases
in a herd, whats most important


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 36

Consequently, simply monitoring lameness is not an effective

means of limiting financial losses from foot disease. Instead,
regular foot care and evaluation
and accurate determination of
the causes of lameness are
essential for early recognition of
subclinical laminitis.

(TOP) Chronic laminitis, exterior,

(LOWER) Cross section showing sole
ulcer; note the tilting downward of the
pedal (P3) bone, overgrowth at the toe
and double sole.

is to establish the possibility of

subclinical laminitis as an
underlying cause. Treating hoof
problems without correction of
the underlying causes only contributes to continued economic
As with the acute and chronic
forms of laminitis, first lactation
animals within the first 30 to 60
days of lactation are most susceptible. Lesions of the foot most
characteristic of subclinical
laminitis include:
1. visible hemorrhages of the
sole that may appear as bruises
or pink staining of the solar horn
or hemorrhages arranged in the
form of striations (stripes);
2. soft, yellowish or waxy solar
horn that cuts easily with a hoof
3. an increase in lameness
where lesions observed are primarily ulcers and white line disease.
Subclinical laminitis represents an important clinical indicator of an advanced problem.


Simply stated, laminitis, or
founder, is an aseptic (no infection) inflammation of the sensitive laminae (corium) of the foot.
The onset of laminitis is
believed to be associated with a
disturbance in the micro-circulation of blood in the corium
which leads to a breakdown of
the dermal-epidermal junction
between the wall and P3 bone.
Rumen (lactic) acidosis is considered to be a major predisposing cause of laminitis. Various
substances released in coincidence with development of
rumen acidosis cause changes in
blood flow within the hoof. The
result is edema, hemorrhage and
death of corium tissues.
Located as it is between the
claw capsule and P3, the corium
is particularly vulnerable to inflammation. Any increase in size
of the corium due to fluid accumulation (blood and lymph) will
increase pressure, pain and tissue damage. Inflammation of
corium tissues often leads to
swelling at the coronary band
(skin-horn junction above the
Ulcers tend to be one of the
most debilitating of lameness
conditions affecting dairy cattle.
Early ulcers may appear as a circumscribed area of fresh tissue
that may be uncovered in the
process of claw trimming. More
mature or long-standing ulcers

may be covered initially by

rough, irregular horn tissue that
when pared away exposes granulation tissue which bleeds
freely if damaged.
Destruction of the dermal-epidermal junction permits sinking
of P3. As P3 begins to sink
within the claw, compression of
the solar corium sets the stage
for ulcers. In some cases, the toe
of the P3 rotates severely downward toward the sole. If compression of the corium by the toe
is severe enough, a toe ulcer may
develop. If sinking of P3 is such
that the rear portion sinks farthest, compression and thus sole
ulcer development will most likely occur in the area of the heelsole junction.
Recent studies have found
that the digital cushion of heifers
is less well developed compared
with mature cows. This is
believed to increase the vulnerability of young animals to claw
disease, particularly heel ulcers.
Researchers have theorized that
the sinking of P3, subsequent to
laminitis, leads to damage of the
digital cushions and replacement of the fat with firmer connective (even cartilage-like) tissue. The combination of a
harder, less flexible digital cushion and compression of the corium caused by the sinking of P3
results in damage to the corium
in the heel, consequently resulting in heel ulcers.
laminitis is a major underlying
cause of ulcers. The combination
of excessive claw horn formation, displacement of P3, and the
accelerated growth of claw horn
on the anterior (front) and abaxial (outside) wall predispose the
lateral claw in particular to
excessive loading, wear, and
weight-bearing at the typical
site. The additional strain and
pressure applied to the heel/sole
region (or toe in the case of toe
ulcers) worsens dysfunction of
the underlying corium and leads

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 37

to interrupted horn formation

and development of the lesion.
Treatment requires removal of
the dead or decaying horn tissue
followed by adjustment of
weight-bearing to the sound claw
(as described under the discussion on corrective or therapeutic
trimming) or elevation of the
affected claw with a footblock
attached to the unaffected claw.
All healthy horn tissue should be
left in place (See Steps 5 & 6
under Claw Trimming).

cases may require anesthesia

and veterinary assistance. The
cavity remaining in the claw following removal of the fractured
portion of P3 should be flushed
with water and any remaining
necrotic tissue removed. A bandage may be necessary in cases
where there is significant bleeding. Placement of a claw block
under the sound claw to remove
weight-bearing in the affected
claw is an important treatment

This condition is usually
caused by excessive shearing
and wear of the sole and horn of
the white line, sometimes caused
by confinement on abrasive concrete surfaces. It may also result
from over-trimming of the sole
and white line at the toe. These
factors may be complicated by
laminitis which, as described
previously, leads to rotation of
the third phalanx and pressure
on the solar corium at the toe. A
defect of the sole horn may be
present at the toe, but in some
cases no lesion may be visible.
The preferred method for
treatment is to remove all loose
and undermined horn so that
further migration of the lesion
under the sole can be stopped.
Once loose horn is removed, a
crater-like defect in the corium
at the toe is often observed. If the
underlying corium is dark and
necrotic, it should be removed as
well. It is not uncommon in longstanding cases to find a pathological fracture of P3, in which
case one may encounter a loose
piece of bone that may either fall
out or be removed with relative
ease during the corrective trimming process. The portion of
bone removed is the fractured
apex (the pointed extremity) of
the P3.
In some cases this fractured
portion of the third phalanx may
be tightly adhered to the inside
of the wall. Removal in these


Areas of hemorrhage and
necrosis (dead tissue) of the corium are often most noticeable
and severe in the white line
region of the sole. This corresponds to an important weightbearing region of the claw.
Because it is an active area of
hoof formation, it is highly vascular, and a frequent site for
hemorrhage during bouts of
laminitis. These areas of hemorrhage are not visible during the
acute stage of laminitis. Instead,
they gradually rise to the surface
of the sole over a period of 6 to
10 weeks. At this point they
become visible and useful as
indicators of disease of the corium (subclinical laminitis).
White line disease (including
white line separation) results
from the formation of poor quality horn in association with
laminitis. The horn which constitutes the white line may be
crumbly or weak, and as it
breaks up, creates voids which
are quickly filled in by debris
from the environment. This is
the start of white line separation
and appears as a dark line of
various lengths in or adjacent to
the sole-wall junction (i.e. white
Separation occurs most commonly at the heel-sole-wall
junction. The lateral claw of the
rear foot is more commonly
associated with complications of
white line separation than the

(TOP) Thin sole with separation and

exposure of the corium.
(LOWER) Toe ulcer with exposure of
necrotic corium at the toe.

medial claw. Any signs of white

line separation (even as small
as a dark spot), if associated
with lameness and pain in the
heel area, should be explored.
Once opened, small white line
lesions in the lateral claw may
turn out to be large areas of
abscessed, undermined horn.
The pathogenesis and possible
consequences of white line separation are shown in the figure
on page 35.
The horn disruption that
causes white line disease also
can form subsolar abscesses.
These abscesses may be sterile,
on occasion (i.e. containing no
bacteria) but nonetheless troublesome as they cause acute
lameness in affected animals.
They form as a consequence of
necrosis of corium tissues.
Regardless of how white line
disease develops, it is treated by
paring away of the necrotic loose
horn and drainage of the


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 38


1. White line separation

2. White line disease, with an
abscess undermining the abaxial
(outside) wall.
3. Sand crack.
4. Deep digital sepsis.


abscess. For abscesses which

develop as a result of penetration
through the white line or sole,
establishing drainage through
the original site of the contaminants entry is the desired
approach when possible. The
site of entry can usually be visualized as a dark area packed
with extraneous debris on the
surface of the sole. Visibility of
these is often improved following
cleaning and/or paring away of
the superficial layers of the solar
horn. Once the entry site is
located, careful paring out of the
tract leading to the abscess is
While establishing drainage
and removing damaged or loose
claw horn, care should be taken
to minimize peripheral damage
of normal, healthy tissues. The
claw wall adjacent to the
abscessed area should be pared
away so that weight-bearing is
minimized at this site. This is an
important step, since removal of
the wall adjacent to the abscess
prevents extraneous material
from being packed into the solar
defect. This procedure may be
painful and in some cases local
anesthesia is required.
Many animals will show
immediate improvement, whereas others in which abscessation
was more extensive may take
several days or weeks to
improve. There is no need for
antibiotic therapy unless the
infection extends to deeper tissues of the foot as evidenced by
swelling and severe lameness. If
swelling and severe lameness
occurs, the cow should be examined by a veterinarian for evidence of deep digital infection
which may require surgery.
Wrapping or bandaging claw
lesions is the personal preference of some, however studies
indicate that there is no therapeutic advantage to wrapping.
Remember that abscesses
occurring secondary to white
line disease or ulcers are

extremely painful. In most cases,

pain can be alleviated through
the application of a claw block to
the healthy claw of the affected
foot as described earlier for the
treatment of sole ulcers. Elevation of the damaged claw suspends weight-bearing, reduces
discomfort, and promotes recovery. Blocks will eventually fall off
(or wear off). Blocks that have
not come off on their own by 3 to
6 weeks should be removed and
replaced if further weight relief is
Sand cracks are a common
claw disorder in beef cattle and
occasionally in dairy cattle. They
are usually observed on the front
and lateral walls of the claw capsule and may extend from the
coronet to the weight-bearing
surface. Vertical wall cracks are
particularly prevalent on the
outside claw of front feet in beef
bulls, however cows are frequently affected as well. Studies
in western Canada cite prevalence rates of 16% to as high as
59% in problem herds. Several
likely predisposing causes include body size and weight, dry
weather conditions, nutritional
factors, laminitis and brittle claw
horn. Sand cracks are associated with severe lameness, particularly when they extend from the
coronet to the weight-bearing
surface and through the full
thickness of wall to the corium.
Treatment involves removing
the undermined horn associated
with the vertical wall defect, taking care not to damage the
underlying sensitive tissues.
Horn along the edges of the fissure is removed at an angle so
that a V-shape funnel is created.
This should be done along the
whole length of the fissure. If the
fissure does not extend to the
coronary band, a horizontal
groove at the top end of the fis-

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 39

sure can be made in order to

stop the vertical fissure from
progressing farther upward.
Fissures limited to the superficial horn of the wall usually do
not result in lameness. However,
once the fissure extends through
the full thickness of the wall,
sensitive tissues of the corium
become involved and lameness
will result.
Trauma to the corium can
have serious consequences, particularly if it involves the coronary corium which produces the
horn of the wall. Damage to the
coronary corium often leads to
the protrusion of tissue at the
site of injury and the formation
of abundant granulation tissue
(also referred to as proud flesh).
Granulation tissue tends to
expand and fold over the horn
edges. In these cases it often
develops into a chronic lesion.
Deep surgical excision of the
granulation tissue as well as
thinning of the horn around the
lesion is the primary treatment
option. Large lesions have a poor
prognosis and tend to reoccur
even after several treatments. In
these cases the lesion is very
painful and lameness is severe.
Application of a claw block is
useful to relieve pain in some
cases. However, when the lesion
becomes chronic, sometimes the
best options are culling or
amputation of the claw.
Defects or cracks in the wall
that run in a horizontal direction
are commonly observed and are
certainly not always indicative of
disease. In a close-up view of the
wall, one can see normallyoccurring horizontal growth
lines. However, under the influence of physiological or diseaserelated stresses, claw horn formation and growth may become
interrupted. For example, calving and weaning are stresses
associated with a significant

degree of physiological stress,

and both often result in interrupted horn formation exhibited
by a noticeable horizontal groove
denoting the event. Horizontal
wall defects occurring as a consequence of these physiological
events are generally of little or no
significance beyond serving as
indicators of previous stressful
events. But they do demonstrate
the coriums extreme sensitivity
to the animals well-being.
In the case of disease conditions such as chronic laminitis,
these interruptions in horn formation and growth may result in
much more distinct horizontal
wall cracks, commonly referred
to as growth arrest lines or
hardship grooves. In conjunction with the growth arrest lines
is the production of inferior quality horn (also a consequence of
laminitis) which predisposes to
deviation of the toe and flaring of
the wall as they reach the
weight-bearing surface.
In severe cases the horizontal
groove may extend through the
entire thickness of the wall to
the corium. As the wall grows
downward and approaches the
weight-bearing surface, it may
actually fracture or partially
break away from the claw,
resulting in what is referred to as
a thimble (due to its thimblelike appearance). Movement of
the fractured edges of the wall
horn against the corium creates
an extremely painful condition.
Horizontal wall cracks or
thimbles that do not involve sensitive tissues of the corium can
be left untreated as they will
eventually grow out and disappear. Those deep enough to
reach the corium should be
treated by removing all loose and
undermined horn with care to
avoid damage to the underlying
corium. A foot block applied to
the unaffected claw to relieve
weight-bearing is also advised
for cases where flexing of the
lower and upper portions of the

wall may create discomfort.

This is a consequence of interrupted horn-formation followed
by restoration of horn production and may be caused by similar conditions as described for
horizontal wall cracks. It may
also be associated with sole
hemorrhage which can occur in
layers. Each layer of hemorrhage
may form a double sole and consequently several layers of sole
may be present. The size of the
double sole depends on the
affected area of the solar corium.
If the heel is included in the double sole formation, rupture may
occur at the skin horn junction
of the heel.
Double sole is most often
associated with laminitis in
which the solar corium is severely affected. Animals with double
sole are usually not lame and the
double sole may be found as an
incidental finding during routine
claw trimming. However, in
cases where the heel horn is
involved, trauma of the soft perioplic corium of the heel may
occur, resulting in a heel ulcer.
The treatment consists of paring
away the overlying double sole.
Elevation of the unaffected claw
is only necessary if the cow
shows signs of lameness.
Complications arising from
toe, sole, and heel ulcers, white
line disease or other claw lesions
can lead to deep digital sepsis
conditions characterized by
severe swelling and lameness.
Abscess formation in the heel,
navicular bursa and retro-articular space are common secondary problems in advanced
cases. These conditions include
osteitis (inflammation/infection
of P3), tendonitis (inflammation
of the tendon and tendon
sheath), and infectious arthritis
(usually associated with infection of the joint between P2 and


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 40

P3, the distal interphalangeal

joint). Affected animals exhibit
extreme discomfort and are often
reluctant to stand or walk, even
if just to eat or drink. Performance drops dramatically
and animals lose weight rapidly
as a result of the pain that
accompanies this condition.
It is important to distinguish
this condition from foot rot,
injury due to trauma or presence
of a foreign body in the foot
which also causes swelling and
severe lameness. Indications
that the condition is likely related to a claw disorder would be
inflammation and swelling that
is confined primarily to one claw,
often times in the heel or at the
coronet. In contrast, foot rot is
usually accompanied by the
presence of a lesion in the interdigital skin. When detected early,
these conditions are responsive
to antibiotic therapy. On the

It is important to distinguish the true

cause of lameness whether it is a
disease condition, or in this case, a
foreign body that had penetrated the


other hand, if detected later in

the course of disease, therapy is
less effective and secondary complications may develop.
Functional and corrective
trimming of the affected claw will
usually reveal an advanced
lesion (sole or heel ulcer, or white
line disease) that may be accompanied by a draining tract that
may exude pus or infectious
debris when pressure is applied
to the swollen area. Gentle probing of the draining tract may
help to establish the location,
and to some degree, the extent of
the abscess.
Many of these conditions will
involve the retro-articular space,
as it is a common site for
abscess formation in digital sepsis conditions arising from sole
and/or heel ulcers and white
line lesions. Most of these will
not improve without surgical
intervention. Antibiotic therapy,
regardless of dose, route, or drug
selected will not affect outcome.
These infections need veterinary
described previously, examination and corrective trimming
procedures on advanced lesions
can be very uncomfortable and
may require anesthesia. Readers
are advised to consult their veterinarians when they encounter
such problems.
Infections involving the distal
interphalangeal (DIP) joint (joint
between P2 and P3) cause
extreme lameness even when
confined to one claw. When the
DIP joints of both claws are
involved, cows will usually completely avoid weight-bearing on
the affected foot. As described
for retro-articular abscess, infections involving the DIP joint generally require surgical intervention.
Clearly, a thorough examination of the foot is required whenever one encounters swelling of
the foot and severe lameness,
because the approach to treatment will vary depending upon

the ultimate diagnosis. Early

recognition of animals with these
advanced conditions is important to reduce the tremendous
pain and suffering these animals
endure. In large herds, herdsmen and managers should carefully monitor lame cows to
ensure that animals which
lesions are given prompt attention.
First described in Italy in
1974, footwarts are known by a
variety of different terms: hairy
heel warts, digital warts, strawberry foot, raspberry heel, verrucose dermatitis, Mortellaro or
Mortellaros disease, and papillomatous digital dermatitis (PDD)
or simply, digital dermatitis
(DD), which is likely the best terminology. Regardless of what its
called, DD is recognized worldwide as a common cause of
lameness. Despite its existence
for nearly 30 years, the precise
cause (or causes) remain largely
unknown. A number of treatment and control procedures
have been applied with varying
degrees of success. Lesions tend
to reoccur, making eradication of
the disease from affected herds
quite uncommon.
Most believe that more than
one infectious organism is
involved. Early reports of digital
dermatitis suggested a viral etiology because of the wart-like
appearance of lesions. However,
no one has been able to detect
viruses associated with DD.
Further evidence of a non-viral
cause is the favorable response
observed following antibiotic
treatment. Lesions, lameness
and pain all regress rapidly following treatment with antibiotics.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 41

Hairy heel warts are characterized by

severe heel erosion and thickening or
overgrowth of the heel horn. There
also are the red (strawberry-like), raw
sores with hair-like projections of
whitish, grey or brownish keratinized

Investigations in the US and

Europe consistently identify bacterial spirochetes (spiral-shaped
bacteria) in properly stained sections of DD tissue. However,
whether these organisms actually initiate the disease is unknown. The problem is complicated by the fact that there are
many types of bacteria present
in DD lesions. Sorting them out
and determining their significance is an extremely complex
process. However, it is essential
to finding a long-lasting, if not
permanent, solution to control
the disease.
Characteristics of the Lesion.
Digital dermatitis tends to occur
on the rear feet about 85 to 90%
of the time. Prevalence of the disease in a herd may be as high as
50% or even higher.
Lesions are typically located
on the back of the foot just above
and adjacent to the interdigital
cleft. Some lesions are located
above and/or adjacent to the
bulbs of the heels and still oth-

ers may be located on the posterior aspect of the pastern or in

the interdigital space affecting
the interdigital skin. Early
lesions may be ulcerative and
round or oval with a distinct rim
demarcated by erect, hair-like
growths that surround the
edges. Lesions usually appear to
be moist with a surface resembling a raspberry or strawberry
(hence the names strawberry or
raspberry heel). Lesions of digital
dermatitis are extremely sensitive at this stage and cows will
react painfully to spraying with
water or other direct contact.
Disturbance of the inflamed tissue often results in mild to moderate bleeding.
As the lesions mature, most
will enlarge. Hairs at the margins remain long and erect, evidence of what might otherwise
be an obscure lesion. Closer
inspection shows a lesion similar
to the early lesion with a slightly
more raised surface (characterized by some as terrycloth towellike). Similar to the early lesion,
it is very sensitive and tends to
bleed easily if disturbed. Chronic
lesions are thicker, characterized
by hair-like projections of
whitish, brownish or blackened
keratin which protrude from the
surface of the lesion, and thus
the term, hairy heel warts.
Despite the pain associated
with this condition, lameness is
not a consistent feature. In
Florida studies, only about 50 to
60% of cows with DD exhibited
any degree of lameness. Some
cows will rhythmically lift the
affected foot or assume an
abnormal stance in an attempt
to avoid weight-bearing on the
most severely affected foot.
Many cows with lesions on the
palmar or plantar aspects of the
feet learn to shift their weight
forward to the toe, avoiding contact between the involved tissue
and the floor. This results in
excessive wear of the toe and
reduced wear in the region of the

(TOP) Digital dermatitis with heel erosion.

(CENTER) Digital dermatitis, chronic,
with hair-like epithelial outgrowths.
(LOWER) Digital dermatitis above the
dew claws.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 42

heel. This is particularly noticeable in chronic conditions and

should be corrected at the time
of claw trimming. In general,
lameness appears to be more
related to location or extent of
the lesions involvement, than to
the length of time its been present.
A further complication is disrupted hoof growth. Lesions
which develop at or near the
coronary band (the site of horn
formation) lead to abnormal
horn formation and growth.
Since this disease tends to affect
the region of the heel and interdigital space, claw horn deformities are easiest to observe by
examining the dewclaws, heels,
inside wall of the claw, and heelsole junction of affected feet. The
combined effect of abnormal
hoof growth and abnormal wear,
caused by an irregular gait or an
unnatural stance, simply amplify the problem and may complicate the recovery.
Treatment of Individual Cows
- The European Experience. For
many years the recommended
therapy for DD was surgical
removal of the lesion and trimming of the claw as needed.
However, since the early 1980's,
Europeans have used a combination product (not available in
the US) consisting of topical
oxytetracycline hydrochloride
and gentian violet. The treatment procedure consists of properly restraining the affected animal in a foot-trimming chute
where the foot is elevated or situated to permit examination and
treatment. Once there is the
diagnosis of DD, the lesion is
thoroughly cleaned and then
sprayed with the combination
product. Efficacy reportedly improves to near 90% if the operator allows the first topical treatment to dry, and follows with a
second topical treatment before
turning the cow loose.
The above treatment has
worked well for Europeans for


many years and remains a treatment of choice where this combination product is available.
Subsequent study has shown
that the active ingredient is
oxytetracycline and that this
product alone is sufficient to
effect recovery.
Treatment Experiences in the
US. Early approaches to therapy
in the US included surgical excision, footbaths and/or topical
treatment with various disinfectants and caustic chemicals,
cryosurgery (freezing), and electrocautery (burning). Topical
antibiotic treatment under a
bandage has become a popular
method to treat individual animals; specifically, topical treatment with cotton or gauze
soaked in oxytetracycline hydrochloride, lincomycin or in a lincomycin/spectinomycin combination product under a loose
wrap. Most cows are remarkably
improved within 24 to 48 hours.
Bandages can be removed 3 days
following application.
Footbaths (Walk-Through) for
Treatment and Control of DD.
While walk-through footbaths
are commonly recommended for
treatment and control of herd
outbreaks of DD, there are no
controlled studies to substantiate the use of footbaths for treatment or control of DD. When
used as the sole method of treatment or control, effectiveness
appears to vary considerably. No
doubt, some of the success, or
lack thereof, is related to footbath management.
Tetracycline or oxytetracycline
at rates of 1 to 10 grams/liter of
water have been advised and are
reported to be effective for small
groups of cows if managed properly. Others prefer to medicate
their footbaths with a lincomycin/spectinomycin (LS-50)
combination product or lincomycin alone, at the rate of 0.1
to 0.5 g/liter of water. A veterinary practitioner from England
reports successful control of DD

with a single monthly passage

through a footbath containing 56 g/liter of oxytetracycline or
150 g LincoSpectin-100TM in 200
liters of water. The major concern with antibiotics in footbaths
is residues from direct contamination (through splashing) of the
udder and teats or from oral
ingestion of footbath solutions
by cows. Other problems with
the use of antibiotics in footbaths are cost and effectiveness,
both of which will be discussed.
Topical Spray Treatment with
Various Antibiotic Solutions.
Topical spray treament has been
shown to be effective as a therapy for DD. Generally, once daily
tpical spray treatment for a period of 7 to 10 days is beneficial in
reducing the pain associated
with DD lesions. (See Appendix II
for specific information on compounds and mixing instructions). Despite aggressive treat-

The amount of contamination determines how often baths should be

recharged or changed. Fifty cows
may be the limit, depending on mud
and manure conditions. Some foot
bath practices do more harm than

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 43

ment of individual cows and the

rigorous use of footbaths, DD
persists as a problem in many
herds. One explanation is failure
to detect all cases within the
herd. Most herds that apply individual treatments, as described
above, treat only those animals
with visible lameness or lesions.
Since lameness is an inconsistent feature of this disease and
lesions are relatively obscure in
some animals, treatment of only
those animals visibly affected
fails to effectively control the disease. As a consequence, new
cases develop continually.
Questions remain as to
whether or not the high rates of
reoccurrence are due to persistence of the infection or reinfection. However, at the present
time it appears that successful
control requires some form of
continued treatment by any and
more likely all of the methods
There are numerous nonantibiotic treatments that have
been or are currently being recommended either for topical or
footbath application. Most have
not been thoroughly evaluated in
well controlled research trials
with one exception: VictoryTM.
Victory is a triplex formulation
that achieved results equivalent
to oxytetracycline in topical
spray trials in Florida. Nonantibiotic compounds have the
advantage in that they present
little or no residue potential.
Despite the fact that residues do
not appear to be a problem in
topically treated cows or herds,
potential for contamination
always exists when using antibiotics for treatment purposes.
Finally, while topical spray
treatment has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment,
lesions occurring in the interdigital space may be missed with
this treatment approach. As a
consequence, there remains a
role for individual treatment procedures and/or properly man-

aged footbaths for ultimate control of this disease.

In summary, digital dermatitis
is a problem worldwide. Until the
precise causative agent(s) is
identified and the environmental
factors that support or encourage this diseases propagation in
the cows environment are determined, complete eradication is
not likely an option for most
herds. However, with proper
management of housing conditions and the application of
treatment and control measures
as described, it is possible for
herds to achieve a measure of
Interdigital dermatitis (ID) is
an acute or chronic inflammation of the skin between the
claws, extending to the dermis
(deeper layer of skin containing
blood and nervous tissue). The
lesions are confined to the skin
which is usually thickened.
Seeping from inflamed tissue
between the claws will dry and
cause a crust to form. Many
cases may have a characteristic
foul smell. The lesion is often
painful to the touch. In many
cases the condition extends to
the heel horn resulting in heel
erosion. In the initial stages the
heel horn develops a pitted
appearance but later fissures
with undermining of heel horn
Along with this heel erosion is
an acceleration of hoof horn formation. Excessive hoof formation leads to overgrowth and
overloading of the affected claws.
Effects of ID on the interdigital
skin are similar. Chronic inflammation causes the interdigital
skin to thicken, eventually
resulting in the formation of an
interdigital fibroma or corn.
It is an extremely common

Topical spray treatment of digital dermatitis in the milking parlor use

nonantibiotic solutions to guard
against residues in milk.

In large herds, you can save time by

spraying cows in lockups.

disease in confined dairy cattle,

and the constant exposure of
feet to moisture and manure
contamination are believed to be
important contributors in the
occurrence of this disease. It is
likely caused by a mixture of
bacteria: Fusobacterium necrophorum, bacterial spirochetes,
and also possibly Dichelobacter
Mechanical abrasion of the
interdigital skin encourages disease as does horn overgrowth.
Sole overgrowth, particularly of
the lateral hind claw, commonly
occurs at the interdigital space.
This results in narrowing of the
space and facilitates entrapment
of manure and bedding in the
interdigital space. Step 3 of the
Functional Trimming procedure
described earlier is specifically
designed to correct overgrowth


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 44

in this area to assist in the control of ID.

While softening and abrasion
of the interdigital skin are
believed to facilitate bacterial
penetration, evidence suggests
necrophorum, which is a normal
inhabitant of the gastrointestinal
tract, produces a toxin which
eats away at the skin, further
aiding penetration of bacteria.
Recent studies suggest an invasive spirochaete may be involved
in the disease similar to (or the
same as) those associated with
digital dermatitis.
Treatment. Individual treatment of severe ID cases is usually only called for when it is complicated with lameness. As the
lesion in interdigital dermatitis
is generally restricted to the epidermis, treatment should be
restricted to topical treatment
only. Topical oxytetracycline or
LS/50TM have given good results
in cases of digital dermatitis.
Control. As skin lesions usually regress spontaneously when
cows enter a clean and dry environment, proper management of
manure and slurry removal as
well as proper housing facilities
are important. Regular foot trimming to maintain functional
weight-bearing and to remove
hard ridges and undermined
horn associated with heel erosion are considered important
foot care procedures. From a
herd perspective, foot bathing is
the most rational control procedure since lesions primarily
involve the interdigital space,
making other forms of topical
European experience suggests
that ID responds well to a properly managed formalin footbath.
Foot rot is an infectious disease of the interdigital skin characterized by inflammation, fever,
redness, swelling, and moderate


to severe lameness. Although

evidence is inconclusive, the disease is believed to develop following injury or abrasion of the
interdigital skin, which following
secondary infection by Fusobacterium necrophorum alone, or
in combination with Bacteroides
melaninogenicus and possibly
other organisms, often progresses to a severe necrotic lesion.
Failure to treat early in the
course of the disease may lead to
complications involving surrounding soft tissues (tendons,
sheaths, joint capsules, and
bone), ultimately resulting in
deep digital sepsis. At this stage,
response to medical therapy is
quite often unrewarding, thus
surgery, or possibly euthanasia.
In recent years, clinicians in
the United Kingdom have reported on a more extreme form of
this condition referred to as
super foot rot. It is characterized by acute onset of lameness
and accompanied by severe
swelling of the foot that progresses rapidly, involving the soft tissues of the foot. The interdigital
lesion associated with this form
of foot rot tends to be especially
severe and successful treatment
particularly challenging.
Treatment Options Systemic
Therapy. The key to a successful
therapeutic outcome is prompt
recognition and early implementation of treatment procedures.
Parenteral antibiotics or sulfonamides plus topical treatment of
the interdigital lesion have long
been the preferred methods of
treatment. In uncomplicated
cases, improvement is noticeable
within 24 to 48 hours with good
recovery attainable in 3 to 4 days
from the onset of treatment.
Foot rot is responsive to most
antibiotics in common use with
cattle. Dose and duration of
treatment tend to be more
important than antibiotic selection.
Ceftiofur sodium (NaxcelTM ) is

(TOP) Interdigital dermatitis often

involves acute inflammation between
the toes that is quite painful and can
have a characteristic odor.
(LOWER) Erosion of the heel gives a
pitted or sometimes fissured appearance with thickening of the skin,
resulting in a fibroma or corn, as

also labeled for treatment of foot

rot. Its primary advantage is zero
milk and meat withdrawal when
used according to label directions. The usual dose of Ceftiofur
is 0.5 to 1.0 mg/lb of body
weight. While most use this
product at the 1.0 mg/lb dose,
trials conducted with this product as a treatment for foot rot
demonstrated effectiveness at
the 0.5 mg/lb of body weight
dose when treatment was
administered intramuscularly
for 3 consecutive days.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 45

Practically speaking, however,

most recommend the 1.0 mg/lb
dose when treating foot rot. The
duration of treatment required
varies according to severity of
the condition and possible complications. The treatment or
treatment regime chosen depends on follow-up care. A
course of therapy which provides
therapeutic levels of drug for 3 to
5 days will provide the best odds
for a successful recovery.
Treatment Options The
Interdigital Lesion. The interdigital lesion in foot rot cases should
be cleaned and then thoroughly
inspected to confirm the diagnosis as foot rot and not some
other condition, such as a foreign body (nail or other object)
lodged in the interdigital space.
Conservative treatment beyond
cleaning and examination may
include topical treatment of the
lesion with an antiseptic or disinfectant solution.
For foot rot cases that have
progressed to the point of deep
digital sepsis, the prognosis is
poor. The options are few and
may include surgical intervention (if indicated), maybe slaughter (after the acute phase of the
condition has passed), or euthanasia in other severe cases.
The same is true for the occa-

sional case of super foot rot that

one may encounter. Despite
aggressive therapy, some of
these do not recover.
Herd Treatment, Control and
Prevention Strategies. Since
interdigital abrasion or injury is
considered to be an important
predisposing factor, surveying
the environment of cows for
problem areas (e.g., areas of broken concrete flooring, etc.) is recommended. Animals that develop foot rot are likely to be
important shedders of particularly infective or virulent strains
of the disease. So prompt
removal and treatment of suspected foot rot cases may help
limit distribution of the infectious agent(s) in the herd environment.
Most agree that a well-managed footbath is a valuable tool
in the management of foot rot. It
appears to serve a role in treatment, control and prevention.
Formalin at 3 to 5% and copper
sulfate at a 5 to 10% concentration are often recommended.
Some advocate the use of 10%
copper sulfate in slaked lime for
a dry footbath. The key to making a footbath effective is intense
management of the system. This
will be discussed in chapter 6.

Foot rot: Note swelling of the foot

which separate the claws. This case
is accompanied by a severe interdigital lesion.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 46

Chapter 5
Lameness in the upper leg
and in calves

n general, upper leg lameness

accounts for less than 10% of
lameness in dairy cattle. Of
those that occur, most are in
rear legs and associated with
calving injuries or trauma.
Specific causes include (but are
not limited to): paralyses, fractures, dislocations, cellulitis
(inflammation of the subcutaneous soft tissues) of the hock
joint, and rupture of the gastrocnemius tendon.
Paralyses result from nerve
damage. Depending upon severity, lameness that results may be
temporary or permanent. Examples include: peroneal, tibial,
femoral, ischiadic, obturator, sci-


atic and radial nerve paralysis.

Peroneal nerve paralysis is a
common secondary complication
with milk fever, downer cow syndrome, or other conditions which
may cause a cow to remain down
for an extended period of time.
The peroneal nerve passes
superficially over the lateral
aspect of the rear leg where it is
vulnerable to external trauma. It
is often damaged in cows that
suffer milk fever or downer cow
syndrome as a result of the cows
body weight that puts pressure
on the nerve where it crosses
over the bone. Cows with damage to this nerve will stand with
the foot knuckled over onto the
dorsum of the pastern and fetlock joint. At the same time the

hock joint will appear to be over

extended. In mild cases the fetlock tends to knuckle over intermittently when the cow walks. In
severe cases cows will experience
a decreased sensation on the
dorsal (front) side of the fetlock.
The prognosis for cows affected
with peroneal nerve damage
depends upon the severity of the
nerve injury. Recovery may take
days to months depending on
Tibial nerve paralysis. The tibial nerve is situated deeper than
the peroneal nerve and is therefore less vulnerable to injury as
described above for peroneal
nerve paralysis. Clinical signs of
tibial nerve paralysis are similar
to peroneal nerve paralysis.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 47

Cows with tibial nerve damage

tend to overflex the hock joint
(dropped hock appearance)
while the fetlock remains partially flexed. There are other causes
of the dropped hock appearance that must be differentiated
from tibial nerve paralysis such
as gastrocnemius muscle rupture. Gait disturbances with tibial nerve paralysis may be milder
than with severe peroneal nerve
damage but postural disturbances could be permanent.
Femoral nerve paralysis due
to damage to the femoral nerve
results in paralysis of the
quadriceps muscles of the rear
leg which are required to extend
the stifle (cows true knee) to
bear weight. Affected animals
have limited purposeful advancement of the limb which
then collapses at the stifle on
weight bearing. Femoral paralysis in calves may result from difficult calving situations associated with hip lock. The hind limbs
are over extended during traction resulting in damage to the
femoral nerve roots as they exit
through the spinal column.
Femoral nerve paralysis is more
commonly observed in newborn
calves from big frame cattle such
as Charolais and Simmental.
Hyper-extension of the femur
(long bone in the leg) during
birth is believed to result in
severe stretching of the quadriceps muscles resulting in damage to nerves as well as blood
vessels. In severe cases where
muscle tone of the quadriceps
muscle group is sufficiently compromised, there is increased laxity of the patella which predisposes to dislocation of the
patella (knee cap). In severe
cases the quadriceps muscles
atrophy to the extent that the
femur becomes easily palpable.
Prognosis depends on severity
with minor injuries having a fair
to good prognosis.
Ischiadic nerve paralysis. The
ischiadic nerve provides innerva-

tion to the muscles that flex the

stifle, extend the hock, and flex
and extend the digits. The
ischiadic nerve is vulnerable at
the level of the pelvis. Extreme
inter-pelvic pressure during
calving can damage the nerve
whereby the sixth lumbar nerve
is compressed against the
sacrum before it joins the first
two sacral nerve roots to form
the ischiadic nerve. This can
produce both an ischiadic and
obturator nerve paresis (slight or
incomplete paralysis), which is
often present in a neurologically
impaired cow with downer cow
In thinly muscled animals like
small ruminants and calves,
injections deposited deep into the
gluteal muscles or in the rear of
the back leg may affect ischiadic
nerve function. Complete bilateral (on both sides) ischiadic nerve
paralysis often results in downer
cows that are unable to rise.
ischiadic paralysis is recognized
by a limb that tends to be
dragged and advanced by flexion
of the hip only. Animals will walk
on the fetlock rather than bear
weight normally on the weightbearing surface of the foot.
Obturator nerve paralysis
(maternal obstetrical paralysis).
Obturator nerve paralysis commonly occurs in combination
with ischiadic nerve paralysis
and primarily affects the adductor muscles of the inner thigh of
the rear legs. As described
above, the sixth lumbar nerve
contributes to both the obturator
and ischiadic nerve. Damage to
the obturator nerve generally
occurs in association with calving, particularly when the calving process has been prolonged
or difficult. Prolonged pressure
as occurs when the fetus
becomes lodged within the pelvis
for an extended period of time creates the potential for temporary or
even permanent paralysis as a
result of damage to peripheral

(TOP) This bull has a tibial nerve

paralysis; the hock joint is overflexed,
while the fetlock remains partially
(LOWER) The Brahma calf shows peroneal nerve paralysis, also a common
affliction of downer cows due to milk
fever or other causes. Cows will
stand with the foot knuckled over,
and in milder cases, the fetlock
knuckles over intermittently while the
cow walks.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 48

Prolonged calving can cause paralyses of the peripheral branches of the obturator, ischiadic, and sciatic nerves. Severely affected animals are unable to
rise as a result of the loss of innervation to the adductor muscles of the inner

branches of the obturator, ischiadic, and sciatic nerves.

Severely affected animals are
unable to rise. Those able to
stand are predisposed to doing
the splits or falling as a result of
the loss of innervation to the
adductor muscles of the inner
thigh, which under normal conditions keep the legs properly
aligned for standing.
Good footing is essential to
cows suffering from maternal
obstetrical paralysis. As with
other paralyses there is no real
specific treatment beyond supportive care. Protecting these
animals from environmental
exposure (solar radiation), providing them with feed, hay, and
water, and occasional lifting
and/or repositioning are probably most important to their
recovery. Use of a flotation tank
can be helpful when used earlyon following injury.
Radial nerve paralysis. The
radial nerve originates from the
7th and 8th cervical and 1st thoracic portions of the spinal cord.
The radial nerve innervates the
extensor muscles of the carpus


(so-called knee of the front leg)

and foot and also serves to provide sensory innervation to the
skin on the lateral side of the
forelimb from the elbow to the
carpus (front knee). Lesions
involving the 8th cervical and 1st
thoracic vertebrae result in
paralysis which prevents an animal from extending its elbow,
carpus and fetlock in order to
bear weight. The radial nerve
crosses over the lateral surface
of the humerus and is thus subject to trauma if animals are
positioned in lateral recumbency
(lying flat on their side) for
extended periods of time. Signs
of distal radial paralysis include
an inability to extend the carpus
and the digit.
Lesions involving the 7th and
8th cervical region of the spinal
cord are associated with the clinical signs of proximal radial
paralysis. The elbow is dropped,
the carpus and fetlock in partial
flexion, and the limb is dragged
causing abrasion to the top side
of the fetlock. In the absence of
fractures and obvious muscle
damage, difficulty in advancing

the limb and an inability to

extend the elbow, carpus and
fetlock to bear weight, confirm
radial nerve paralysis.
Radial nerve paralysis is a
common consequence of restraint on tilt tables. It can be
prevented to some degree by the
positioning of a soft pad under
the shoulder and limb and by
extending the down limb as far
forward as possible. The prognosis is favorable with partial radial nerve damage and most cases
improve within minutes to several hours. More severe cases may
take several days or up to a week
or so for complete recovery. On
rare occasions damage to the
radial nerve from lying results in
Antiinflammatory treatment, confinement with secure footing and
adequate bedding are recommended for protracted cases.
Prevention of partial radial
paralysis caused by recumbency
on hard surfaces should involve
the following:
1. Adequate padding below
the shoulder and limb.
2. Maintain of the lower limb
in a forward extension.
3. Avoid tightly fixing the
upper limb to the table, which
will increase pressure not only
on the thorax but also on the
lower limb. The upper limb is
best maintained in moderate
extension to the rear.
Fractures most frequently
result from traumatic injury.
While long bone fractures in
young animals can often be
repaired with properly reinforced
casts, repair of fractures in large
heifers or adult cows is more
complicated. For economic reasons, slaughter or euthanasia are
often the more appropriate choices for the management of fractures in adult animals. A cardinal
symptom of limb fractures is
complete lack of weight-bearing
on the affected leg.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 49

Fractures of the pelvis and

spine are most often associated
with falls. They tend to occur with
greater frequency near calving or
during the first 100 days or so of
lactation. The provision of nonslip flooring is a key factor in
minimizing such problems.
Coxofemoral joint (hip) luxation (partial or complete dislocation) is commonly seen in dairy
cattle and often related to parturition and abduction (doing the
splits with the rear legs) of the
hind legs due to either bilateral
(both sides affected) obturator
paralysis, milk fever, or slipping
on wet, smooth concrete. The
head of the femur usually goes in
an upward and forward direction
as it dislocates itself from the hip
joint. Clinical signs include an
almost total inability to bear
weight on the affected leg in
acute cases; an outward rotation
of both the stifle and the digit;
upward displacement of the
greater point of the femur on the
affected side; crepitation (roughened feel and sound detected
when two ends of bone are
rubbed together) and localized
pain on manipulation of the
affected leg. These must be differentiated from fractures, often
requiring veterinary assistance.
Trauma is the most common
cause for rupture of the cruciate
ligament of the rear legs which is
often complicated by the involvement of several joint components. In rare instances severe
trauma may lead to dislocation.
Injury resulting from a twisting
action of the limb while the claws
remain firmly placed on the
ground (such as when the hind

quarters are swung around during weight-bearing) in a stationary position is the predominant
cause of cruciate ligament damage. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs which include a
marked lameness; outward rotation of the leg and the foot; during non-weight bearing the animal tends to hold the tip of the
toe on the walking surface; fluid
accumulates in the stifle joint;
there may be an audible clunk
from the joint during movement
or manipulation and sometimes
a visible instability of the joint
during movement. Joint crepitus
(crackling) can be elicited by
medial and lateral rotation of the
point of the hock while holding
ones hand over the patella (knee
cap) and collateral ligaments. A
movement of the joint) can also
be attempted either in the standing position or with the cow in a
lying position. In chronic cases,
muscle atrophy will further
exaggerate the enlargement of
the affected joint.
Because of the accompanying
damage to the menisci and articular surfaces, the prognosis is
very guarded. Limited movement
in a box stall or small yard is
essential with the aim to avoid
further injury and to permit the
development of fibrosis which
may help with joint stabilization.
Systemic analgesics may be used
during the acute phase of the
condition. In general surgical
repair has been shown to have
limited success. Slaughter is
likely the best option for all but
the most valuable animals.
Hock joint cellulitis (swollen
hocks) is a chronic cellulitis
involving the lateral aspect of the
hock joints. It is usually bilateral
and often more of a cosmetic

Lesions on the lateral side of the hock

are often due to housing with improperly designed stalls.

problem than a lameness problem. It results from repeated

trauma to the lateral aspect of
the hock joints and is most commonly seen in tie stall or free
stall barns where the length of
the stall is too short, forcing the
cows to lie on the edge of the
curb where they are subject to
chronic trauma and irritation.
Lameness is usually absent
except in cases which cause
mechanical impairment of the
joint or in cases of severe abscessation or septic arthritis.
A high incidence may be related to lack of a sufficient number
of stalls, flaws in stall design, or
cow habit/behavioral patterns in
which cows choose to lie on concrete rather than in available
stalls. The problem disappears
when cows are given access to
pasture, dirt lots, or a properly
designed stall. It is inadvisable
to attempt radical surgery on
these lesions since risk of entering the joint is high and postoperative hemorrhage and skin
necrosis are likely to result.
Delayed healing and recurrence
of the swelling are major disadvantages.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 50

Rupture of the gastrocnemius
tendon is an occasional observation in downer cows. Usually
only one leg is affected. Clinical
signs may resemble tibial nerve
paralysis as described earlier.
The hock is flexed, weight bearing is reduced and the point of
the hock drops toward the
ground especially while walking.
The fetlock may be flexed and
exhibiting some degree of knuckling. There may be a soft, warm,
painless swelling where the rupture occurred, in the typical
case. Later on, the swelling
becomes firm, larger and somewhat painful. The diagnosis is
based on the typical signs and
posture. It causes severe disability, and for all practical purposes, is not correctable surgically.
Examination of downer cows
should include some assessment
of this important structure
before treatment is instituted.
Surprisingly, some will be able to
stand despite rupture of this
tendon. The only real option is
slaughter or euthanasia.
Forelimb injuries can occur
involving the suprascapular and
radial nerves when animals go
down or shift their body forward
in upright chutes. For example,
when lifting a rear leg some animals will go down on their knees
(carpus). In this instance, the
bellyband slides backward permitting the chest to slip forward
and somewhat downward resulting in excessive pressure being
exerted against the base of the
neck and the front of the shoulders. The degree of injury will
depend on the severity of trauma
to the nerves and may include
the following: inability to rise on
the front legs after the head gate
is opened; the cow may stumble


forward in an effort to get up,

usually crawling on its knees.
In the most severe cases, the
animal is unable to get up or
support weight. Prognosis for
such cases is usually poor and
euthanasia often necessary. In
less severe cases, particularly if
one leg is more severely affected,
the animal rises successfully
after stumbling forward, but has
shoulder and advancing the leg.
The elbow is dropped, or held
low. Such injuries may recover
after a variable period, but injury
can lead to permanent damage.
Damage to the brachial plexus
of the front leg may occur when
the restraining device is rotated
outward too far in order to
reach the claw. In such cases
the elbow may be swung outward from the ribs, stretching
and straining the brachial
plexus and reducing the animals ability to support its
weight on that limb. Pressure on
the brachial plexus can also
occur when the belly band is
tightened immediately behind
the elbows or in cases where the
belly bands, connected by metal
clamps or connectors to ropes or
chains, impinge upon the
brachial nerve plexus.
Injuries involving the distal
radial nerve of the down leg can
occur if shoulder padding is
insufficient and/or the animal is
kept down for a long time. This is
more likely to occur in heavy
animals. Pressure over the bony
prominence in the upper front
leg causes trauma to the distal
radial nerve. In heavy animals
this is further complicated by a
decrease in blood flow to the
large muscle groups at the top of
the leg during the time the animals are down. Affected animals
may fall down when they are
taken of the table and have difficulty getting up. The front leg is

usually held in a semi-flexed

position, unable to bear weight.
The animal has great difficulty
advancing the leg forward. In
most cases this type of injury to
the radial nerve and/or interference in blood flow to muscles is
transient and complete recovery
occurs within 24 hours. In a few
cases, however, permanent damage may occur. Cows suffering
more severe or permanent damage to the radial nerve are often
subject to traumatic injury of the
dorsal surface of the foot as a
consequence of dragging the leg.
This type of injury can be prevented by providing a pad or
cushion under the down shoulder and by restraining the down
leg in a forward position in order
to reduce pressure on the shoulder and brachial plexus in the
axillary (armpit) area.
There are several congenital
defects characterized by joint fixation in calves. Many of these
are severe enough to be lethal,
whereas most others are lifethreatening because they restrict
the calfs mobility to nurse,
access feed and water, etc. A
common cause of this type of
lameness in newborn calves is
contracted tendons. Although
this condition severely restricts
mobility, most animals will survive and recover to normal function. The condition is manifested
by excessive flexion of the fetlock
joints of the front feet which
causes affected animals to
knuckle under or walk on the
front of their pasterns. Although
some have attributed this condition to restricted fetal space or a
mal-positioning of the fetus in
late gestation, exact cause is
unknown. At least one source
suggests that the cause is genetic. Mild cases usually recover
spontaneously after only a few
weeks. In severe cases, attempts

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 51

to extend the legs with casts,

splints or even physical therapy
are helpful. In extreme cases,
surgery may be the only viable
option. Necropsy of affected
calves tends to show little more
than excessive contraction of the
joints caused by shortening of
the flexor tendons.
Arthritis localized in one or
more joints is a common outcome of infection. The navel is a
common site of entry for infectious organisms in newborn
calves, but secondary involvement of joints may occur from
septicemias arising from gastrointestinal (E. coli, Salmonella,
etc.) or respiratory (Mycoplasma
sp.) diseases as well. Joints most
commonly infected are the knee,
hock and fetlocks. Colostrumdeprived calves are particularly
susceptible to septicemia and
infectious arthritis. Joints become warm and swollen, with
affected animals showing varying degrees of lameness. Severe
cases have a poor prognosis and
in some cases may need to be
Dystocia and calving-related
injuries. Calves delivered by
forced extraction are subject to
injury (and occasionally fracture)
of their legs from the excessive
pressure exerted on forelimbs (or
rearlimbs in the case of a posterior presentation). Fractures reduce mobility or even the ability
of some calves to stand. They
may be treated with a cast or
splint, in which case many will
recover without consequence. In
cases where recovery is delayed
or does not progress favorably, it
may be due to irreversible dam-

age of the blood supply in affected tissues. It is important that

obstetrical chains or ropes be
used properly so that traction is
applied both above and below
the fetlock to reduce and redistribute extraction forces. When
extraction force appears to be
sufficient to potentially result in
fractures of the legs, it may be
necessary to deliver the calf by
caesarian section.
Another condition associated
with difficult calvings, particularly hiplock, is femoral nerve
paralysis. Calves affected with
femoral nerve damage tend to
squat rather than stand normally. There is no specific treatment but some calves will spontaneously recover.
Large herds need to monitor
calving cow management and
take particular note of the number of assisted births and calf
injuries as described above. A
high incidence of dystocia and
calving-related injuries is cause
for alarm and calls for a review of
calving assistance procedures.
In some cases, intervention is
occurring too early in the labor
process. This has the potential to
injure the cow as well as the calf.
Injection site paresis. The rear
legs and hips are common sites
for intramuscular injection in
cattle. However, because of limited muscle mass in calves, injections that are given in the hip or
rear leg may lead to temporary or
even permanent paresis as a
result of damage to the sciatic
nerve and its distal branches.
Damage to the sciatic nerve or its
lower branches will cause calves
to knuckle under or walk on the
front of their pasterns. Avoid this
problem by using alternate sites
(such as the neck region) for
intramuscular injections or by
choosing the subcutaneous route
of administration whenever label
directions permit it.

At birth this calf showed the knuckling under due to contracted tendons.
She outgrew the condition without

The photo above shows a swollen

knee in a calf, a joint infection that is
likely related to another primary
infection or illness.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 52

Chapter 6

ome use footbaths because

they think its easier than
other treatment and control
measures. Unfortunately, if this
is the perception, chances are it
wont be an effective way to manage a lameness problem. For
example, a study of footbaths on
dairy farms in England and
Wales indicated that most dairy
farms installed footbaths to cure
rather than to prevent lameness
problems. Despite their objective, results indicated that for
most farms the incidence of
lameness was unchanged.
This simply re-emphasizes
that lameness is a multi-facetedproblem and approaches to
management of lameness by
footbaths alone will almost certainly fail. Several factors to consider when using a footbath are:
size of the footbath, disinfectant
used in the bath, size of the
herd, how often the footbath is
changed, cleanliness of the environment, weather conditions
and cleanliness of cows, use of a
pre-bath, cow flow and more.
Effectiveness of footbaths for
the treatment and control of
lameness has not been thoroughly studied. Limited information suggests some benefit from
their use in herds suffering
lameness associated with the
infectious diseases of the foot
skin (i.e. interdigital dermatitis,
digital dermatitis and foot rot).
Footbaths are considered less
useful for treatment of conditions involving the claws such as
laminitis, ulcers and white line


Two types of footbaths are
walk-through or stand-in (stationary bath). The walk-through
footbath is most popular in loose
housing systems and is commonly located in milking parlor
exit lanes. In some operations,
footbaths are permanently constructed into the floor of exit
lanes. Portable footbaths constructed of rubber, fiberglass or
hard plastic are also available.
These have the advantage of
being moved or relocated as
needed. The portable footbath is
also the most convenient type for
situations which may call for the
bathing of all four feet for prolonged periods as may be done
with a stand-in footbath.
Dimensions for walk-through
footbaths should be at least 3
feet wide, 6 to 9 feet long, and at
least 5 to 6 inches deep (1 m x 2
to 3 m x 12 cm to 15 cm deep).
Proper construction includes a
means for efficient drainage and
cleaning as well as re-filling. The
capacity of a rectangular footbath varies according to its
dimensions which can be computed by the following formula:
Width x Length x Depth (in feet)
x 7.46 = capacity in gallons.
Multiplying the number of gallons by 3.8 will provide capacity
in liters.
The size of a stand-in footbath

will vary according to the number of cows treated with the system. Also, the larger the bath the
more costly it is to fill and medicate. A minimal solution footbath holds a smaller amount of
liquid and saves expense on the
compound used to medicate it.
Only 15 to 25 liters of fluid are
required to fill the bath. It is recommended that the bath be
replenished with about 4 liters of
fluid for every 25 cows through
the bath. This may be useful in
small herds but certainly is
impractical for larger operations.
Antibiotics at rates from 0.1
g/liter to 10 g/liter have been
recommended for use in footbaths. Unfortunately, antibiotics
are thought to be rapidly neutralized by the mud and manure
in footbaths. This significantly
limits use of antibiotics in footbaths for large herd situations
or in housing conditions where
muddy conditions persist. Some
suggest that a footbath charged
with antibiotic solutions would
be sufficient for 150 to 200 cows.
But studies on footbath contamination rates in Florida found
that as few as 50 cows through
an oxytetracycline-treated footbath resulted in major shifts in
pH and solids loading.
Another consideration is the
expense of using antibiotics in
footbaths. It is very costly to
achieve effective drug levels in a
footbath. For example, consider
the costs for charging a 60-gal-

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 53

lon footbath with oxytetracycline

on a dairy of 300 cows. Assuming a maximum of 150 cows
through the footbath and that
there are two exit alleys from the
milking facility, the daily cost to
foot-bathe cows is: $53/day for 1
g/liter, $264/day for 5 g/liter,
and $528/day for a 10 g/liter,
concentration of oxytetracycline.
Similarly, the cost to charge
the same size footbath with a 1
g/liter concentration of Lincomycin/Spectinomycin (LS/50)
would cost approximately $800/
day (LS/50 at $28/package,
14.2 packages required/ footbath). Obviously, the use of
antibiotics at effective concentrations in footbaths is cost-prohibitive in most situations.
Copper sulfate and zinc sulfate are commonly used in footbaths, but available information
indicates that they rapidly combine with organic matter and
thus become neutralized. Use of
zinc sulfate footbaths in control
of sheep foot rot have demonstrated effective control. However, no studies have been conducted in cattle, and the
potential benefits of zinc sulfate
for management of lameness are
unknown. A study of eight disinfectants for cattle footbaths
found that the best antibacterial
activity was obtained with 3%
formalin or a combination of 3%
formalin and 2% copper sulfate.
Copper sulfate (5%) alone was
reported to have mediocre antibacterial activity and caused significant skin irritation in the
sheep used as a study animal. In
recent years, some have tried to
improve the effectiveness of copper sulfate for treatment of digital dermatitis by increasing the
concentration of solutions to as
much as 10% or more. Anecdotal

evidence suggests improved perature of the interdigital skin

effectiveness, but cost and envi- recovers to near normal body
ronmental concerns (discussed temperature within about 3 minlater) are limitations.
utes after going through a walkFormaldehyde is an aqueous through bath. Therefore, the
solution of formaldehyde gas effect of cold temperatures may
in be minimal.
methyl alcohol. When formaldeEnvironmentally, formalin is
hyde gas is mixed with water, it oxidized to formic acid and evenbecomes formalin. It reacts with tually reduced to methanol.
practically all types of organic Ultimately, the methanol dematter. In fact, its reactivity with grades to water and carbon dioxproteins is the basis for its use ide. Concerns about damage to
as a disinfectant and embalming manure pits, considering the
agent. Formalin diluted to a 3 to amount that would normally be
5% concentration has been wide- discharged from a footbath,
ly used in footbaths for manage- probably are inconsequential.
ment of lameness conditions. Despite this, some states have
formalin either banned, or placed signifiabove 5% are used by some, but cant restrictions on the use of,
not recommended because of the formalin in footbaths, in part out
tendency to cause skin irritation. of concern for worker safety as
Its germicidal and tissue-hardening properties make it a logical
option for use in foot- Footbaths remain a preferred method for managbaths. However, the ing lameness conditions in cattle, but they
use of formalin in foot- require careful and conscientious management,
baths is complicated
by concerns for worker
safety associated with
inhalation of fumes
which can be very irritating
membranes. When repeatedly applied to
skin, formalin can
and necrosis (tissue
One other disadvantage of formalins use
in footbaths is loss of
activity at low temperatures. Formalins disinfection properties are
reported to decrease
markedly when temperatures fall below
10 C (50 F). While
this may be a problem
during cold weather or
in cooler climates (particularly with a stationary bath), subsequent
shown that the tem-


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 54

well as potential environmental

In summary, despite some
unknowns, footbaths remain a
preferred method for managing
lameness conditions in cattle.
But unless carefully and conscientiously managed, footbaths
can be an ineffective, and potentially dangerous, lameness management strategy. Information
from well-controlled trials are
needed and would help to establish a clearer purpose for footbaths as well as a greater understanding of the best way to use
them in the context of treatment
and control of lameness conditions.
Most operations design facilities for the placement of footbaths in parlor exit lanes.
However, in some operations
cows tend to loiter in lanes exiting the parlor. In general, it is
best to locate walk-through footbaths in pathways or areas
where cows tend to keep moving.


Ideally, after traversing through

the baths, cows should be kept
in a clean, dry area for approximately 30 minutes. This allows
time for drainage of the excess
fluid and for the medications to
exert their antibacterial action.
Contaminated footbath solutions
are discharged into manure
holding systems. Here they are
diluted with other waste material
from the dairy operation and
eventually applied to crop fields.
Until recently, most have considered the contribution of footbaths to chemical load in the
environment to be insignificant
and just a part of sound foot care
management. However, the use
of copper sulfate at the rate of
100 lbs. per day equates to 18
tons per year, as reported by Dr.
Everett Thomas of the Miner
Institute. Considering the typical
number of crop acres for an 800
cow dairy, that amounts to an
application rate of 5 lbs. per acre
per year.
The article cites two important
problems: 1) phytotoxicity, and
2) Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) guidelines on

cumulative loading capacity of

soils for heavy metals, including
copper. Although copper is
potentially toxic for dairy cattle,
the more significant problem
relates to plant toxicity. In high
concentrations, copper damages
the plants root system. In some
locations crop yields have been
greatly reduced as a result of
copper toxicity. At current rates
of application, many dairy operations will achieve the lifetime
accumulative load within a period of 10 to 15 years.
Clearly, all operations need to
assess the amount of copper sulfate being applied per acre to
determine if they are in danger of
reaching lifetime accumulative
loads. This assessment may be
made by multiplying the pounds
of copper sulfate purchased
annually by .25 to determine the
actual amount of copper; then
divide this amount by the number of acres that are receiving
manure applications.
See Appendix 1 on page 67 for
specific information on footbath

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 55

Chapter 7
Monitoring lameness

wners or managers may be

aware of an increase in overall herd lameness, but until they
know something about the
occurrence of specific disorders
(e.g. sole ulcers, white line disease, or digital dermatitis) and
rates of these conditions, it may
be hard to identify underlying
causes let alone develop a rational management strategy to
address them.
The collection and maintenance of records is time-consuming and represents a significant cost of doing business. So,
keep only information that can
and will be used for the purpose
of tracking progress and/or
making changes. In the US,
compatibility with farm recordkeeping systems such as Dairy
Herd Improvement Assn. (DHIA)
or other systems is a necessity.
This permits data on lameness
to be incorporated into the

farms database on animals so

that as summary reports (on
individual cows or on the herd)
are retrieved, other pertinent
information (such as milk production, reproductive status,
etc.) may be reviewed as well.
A record-keeping system prepared by the American Assn. of
Bovine Practitioners (AABP)
Bovine Lameness Committee is
described in the following. It
meets the criteria of being simple
to understand, consistent with
international classification systems and is compatible with
DHIA program records. A simplified form for the keeping of
handwritten records of claw
lesions also is described.
Information for each cow (or
foot) may be recorded on the following 15 conditions: upper leg
(N for non-foot), laminitis (L),

ulcers (U), sand or vertical wall

cracks (V), white line disease (A
for abscess), white line separation (S), sole hemorrhage (H),
heel erosion (E), interdigital dermatitis (I), interdigital fibroma (K
for corn), digital dermatitis (D),
foot rot (F), corkscrew claw (C),
thin soles (T), and other (O).
Use of the upper case letter
along with a claw zone designation (See section to follow) identifies the condition and location of
the lesion. For example, U-4
(ulcer in zone 4, typical area for
sole ulcers) could be used to designate a sole ulcer (U-5 a toe
ulcer, and U-6 a heel ulcer).
White line disease abscesses (A)
or separations (S) could be identified similarly as A- 11, A-12, A-3,
A-2 and A-1, or S-11, S-12, S-3,
S-2, and S-1. Nearly every condition of the foot could be identified
by use of the appropriate letter
and claw zone designation.

Lesion Codes:
A = White Line Disease Abscess
L = Laminitis
C = Corkscrew Claw
N = Non-foot (upper leg lameness)
D = Digital Dermatitis
O = Other condition
E = Erosion (heel erosion)
S = Separation (White Line Separation)
F = Foot rot
T = Thin Soles (excessive wear)
H = Hemorrhage (sole hemorrhage)
U = Ulcers (sole, toe, and heel)
I = Interdigital Dermatitis
V = Vertical wall crack (Sandcrack)
K = Korn (interdigital fibroma)


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 56

Others may desire or require a

system which provides a more
detailed description of lesions.
For example, lesions of digital
dermatitis may be described as
mild, moderate or severe. But,
these terms are subjective, and
therefore assessment is inconsistent from one evaluator to
another. Alternatively, one may
describe lesions as early (concave to flat surface), mature (flat
to slightly raised with a terrycloth towel like surface), or
chronic (thickened lesions with
hair-like outgrowths). The use of
terms which better describe the
nature and/or stage of the lesion
help reduce subjectivity and presumably inconsistency amongst
evaluators. The use of lower case
letters as lesion descriptors
helps distinguish them from the
capitalized letter codes used for
specific foot disorders.
The collection of such detailed
records is unnecessary for routine use on farms. However,
such records may have an application in situations where
greater detail is needed to provide specific answers relative to
treatment response or some
other parameter of interest. For
example, anatomic location and
maturity of digital dermatitis
lesions is known to influence
treatment response. In herds
where treatment failure is a
recurring problem despite the
use of effective treatment procedures, knowledge of specific
lesion characteristics may help
to explain the lack of response.
Claws are numbered from left
to right beginning with the left
front foot (lateral claw 1, medial
claw 2) and continuing with right
front (medial claw 3, lateral claw


4), left rear (lateral claw 5, medial claw 6), and finally right rear
foot (medial claw 7, lateral claw
8). The two numbers used to
designate claws on each foot are
used to designate the specific
foot or limb affected (left front 12, right front - 34, left rear - 56,
and right rear 78). For lesions
affecting all feet, the number 18
(designating involvement of
claws 1-8) is used.
Many of the claw problems
encountered on the dairy farm
can be managed quite effectively
by corrective trimming and the
application of a block or in some
cases a bandage or wrap. These
actions may be recorded as follows: CT - corrective trimming,
BLK - Foot Block, and WRP Wrap or Bandage. Specific treatments such as systemic antibiotic therapy must be recorded for
purposes of protecting the milk
supply from violative drug
residue. Drugs or other therapeutic agents used in treatment
of a specific condition may be
identified using the name of the
drug, or a number which corresponds to the specific drug used
(for example: Penicillin (1), tetracycline (2), etc. Most dairies and
trimmers also need a mechanism for recording preventive
maintenance trimming events.
Normal trim may be designated
NT, to distinguish it from T
which indicates thin soles.
These codes will provide sufficient identification of most treatment events. Where additional
information is required, it may
be necessary to capture such
information in a comment section of the records.

Follow-up and monitoring is
needed for cows that may
require further evaluation and
treatment, in some cases, to
remove a wrap or claw block. An
identifying crayon mark (for
short term use), leg band or
uniquely colored tag temporarily
attached to the cows permanent
ear tag or neck chain are
options. Of course, good records
and parlor sort gates make follow-up on lactating cows fairly
simple. The point is, dont
assume that once a cow has
been treated for a lameness condition she will automatically
recover. Cows offered the benefit
of timely follow-up will have the
best chances to make a full
recovery. In the following record
form, there is a recheck column,
indicating when the cow should
be rechecked.
To evaluate progress toward
recovery, record the locomotion
score of a lame cow before and at
some time following trimming or
treatment. You can use the locomotion scoring systems as
described earlier in this manual.
Others will want to use locomotion scoring primarily as a herd
management tool or as an objective means of identifying cows
that may require further evaluation by the trimmer.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 57


Axial view (dotted line represents

the white line on the axial wall)

Abaxial view

Zones for designating affected areas of the hoof agreed upon by researchers, with zones 1 through 9 for the purposes of
identifying claw lesions, 0 indicates the interdigital skin or space, 10 (the palmer or plantar interdigital cleft), 11 (the
anterior portion of the axial wall including the white line represented by a dotted line above), and 12 (the posterior portion of the axial wall and white line).

















Foot and Limb/Claw numbering system


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 58


Farm: ________________________________________________________________________
Service Date: ________ Trimmer: __________________ Veterinarian: ____________________
Cow #



Lesion Claw
Code Zone












CT, sole puncture

Rechk (days)


Interpretation of table contents:

1) Cow # 1245 has sole ulcers in the lateral claws of each rear foot. The healthy
claw of each rear foot has had a block applied and each ulcer has been treated by corrective trimming. The trimmer has requested a recheck in 1 week.
2) Cow # 318 has digital dermatitis in the interdigital cleft on the left rear claw.
She has been treated with oxytetracycline under a wrap. If one chooses to identify
drugs by number, then only the number for oxytetracycline need appear in either the
wrap or treatment/comment column.
Cow # 318 also has a white line disease abscess in zone 3 of the lateral claw of the
right rear foot. It has been treated with a foot block and oxytetracycline and the trimmer has requested to see her again in 4 weeks. At this time, assuming the lesion is
resolved, the foot block may be removed.
This cow also has a white line separation in zone 03 of the lateral claw of left rear foot.
This was treated by corrective trimming.
3) Cow # 5248 has laminitis affecting all four feet and her treatment is aspirin.
4) Cow # 624 has a non-foot lameness condition affecting the right rear foot.
5) Cow # 8765 has a heel ulcer in the outside claw of the right rear foot that was
treated with a foot block and corrective trimming. She also has a sole ulcer on the outside claw of the left rear foot that was treated with a block and corrective trimming.
6) Cow # 789 has a lesion in zone 5 described as other on the outside claw of the
right front foot. It was treated by a block and corrective trimming. There is also a comment that indicates that the lesion was caused by a puncture of the sole of some sort.
The cow is listed for recheck in 7 days.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 59


Farm: ________________________________________________________________________
Service Date: ________ Trimmer: __________________ Veterinarian: ____________________
Cow #

Lesion Claw
Code Zone







Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 60

Chapter 8
Cattle behavior, cow-friendly
facilities and proper handling

ome of the most important

considerations in the safe
and efficient examination, trimming and/or treatment of foot
problems in cattle relate to cattle
behavior and sensory perception.
Attention to cow behavior and
the way in which cattle perceive
their environment, properly
designed facilities and proper
handling techniques of cattle all
greatly reduce potential for
injury to both animals and
humans, and markedly improves
cow flow and worker efficiency.
Because of the position of
their eyes, cattle have panoramic
vision which permits them to see
in excess of 300 degrees. The
only blind spot is directly behind
their heads. In contrast, cattle
have only about 60 degrees of
vertical vision, compared with
140 degrees in humans. Feedlot
operators utilize these characteristics of cattle vision to ease cattle handling and movement by
construction of alleyways with
solid-sided panels and elevated
catwalks. Operators can move
freely along the side of the alleyway and above the animals on
the catwalk causing far less disturbance to animals within the
Cattle also have poor depth
perception and limited ability to
focus on objects close up. They
usually need a few moments to
discern what theyre looking at


to determine if it is safe or not.

For this reason, cattle will lower
their heads when walking, particularly when they encounter
shadows or foreign objects in
their pathway. In consideration
of this characteristic of cattle
vision, walkways and/or alleyways designed with good lighting
and clear of foreign debris are
likely to reduce hesitation or
balking. In addition to good
lighting, use of solid-sided panels in walkways will also eliminate shadows and reduce the
visibility of outside distractions
which may restrict cow flow. The
poorest designs are those that
are located in areas of poor lighting and constructed as a straight
lane alleyway with open-sides
that lead directly to the trim
chute. Cow flow is nearly always
poor, requiring significant prodding of cows to encourage their
entry into the restraint device.
When cow flow is restricted, efficiency (in terms of number of
cows examined or treated) is
diminished and handlers are
encouraged or forced to prod
cows in order to get them into
the trim chute.
Finally, cows tend to follow
each other in single file and usually move toward light. Since cattle restraint systems generally
represent a negative (or at least
scary) experience for animals,
curving of the alleyway leading
to the chute improves cow flow
by restricting view of the
restraint device. Once the animal

has arrived at the chute, entry is

encouraged by movement of animals toward the light coming
through the head catch. This is
particularly true for trim chutes
with solid sides.
Cattle have excellent hearing.
They have the ability to hear
sounds at lower volumes as compared to humans. They also have
better hearing of both low and
high frequency sounds. On the
other hand, cattle have a lesser
ability to locate the source of a
particular sound. Humans and
predators have extremely good
localization capabilities. Since
prey animals need only know the
relative direction of a sound in
order to escape, hearing localization capabilities are naturally
less important for survival, and
consequently less well developed
in cattle. A predator depends
upon good localization skills to
find food. Therefore, its ability to
identify the specific direction
and location of a sounds origin
is particularly well-developed.
Unusual sounds, the playing
of a radio on high volume or simply the raised voice of a human
can be particularly disturbing to
cattle. For this reason, the handling of cattle in a quiet environment with a calm, gentle voice is
superior to yelling and prodding.
Also, animals with sight deficiencies (such as blindness in one
eye) tend to rely more heavily on
their sense of hearing. Safety for

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 61

both the cow and operator

depend upon on understanding
this important sense in cattle.
Cattle have a particularly welldeveloped sense of smell which
serves their needs to communicate, reproduce and identify
predators or other dangers. For
example, a cow confirms the
identity of her calf by smell, not
by sight as a human would do.
Pheromones are specialized
chemical substances present in
most if not all body fluids. Those
associated with reproduction
signal animals in estrus. Some
pheromones are associated with
stress or fear. Release of these
pheromones in stressful situations communicates danger and
likely influences behaviors associated with anxiousness, protective instincts, or even aggression. When individuals or groups
of animals are disturbed, their
distress is communicated in
fearful or anxious behavior in
part influenced by the release of


The flight zone is best
described as an animals personal space or comfort zone. It is
that space which when breached
by a human being causes the
cow to move away in the opposite
direction. Flight zones vary
greatly depending upon an animals exposure to humans. In
dairy cattle, flight zones are relatively small.
Movement of cattle backward
or forward is determined by the
handlers position with respect
to the point of balance. In cattle
the point of balance is the shoulder. To move an animal forward,
one stands behind the shoulder
(e.g. point of balance). Standing
in front of the animal (e.g. in
front of the point of balance)
moves the animal backward.
Approaching an animal from the
blind spot (directly behind the
cow) generally causes the animal
to turn around. Although dairy
cattle have smaller flight zones,
an understanding of the point of
balance and what they perceive
as a comfortable distance from
you, the handler, can significantly ease handling.
Although dairy cattle are generally far more comfortable with

human interaction than are beef

cattle, characteristics relative to
visual perception, hearing, flight
zones and the point of balance
are the same for both.
Foot care working areas have
a few basic requirements: 1) provide sufficient space for animals
that have been isolated for foot
care work, 2) facilities must provide for both the safe and efficient movement of cattle to and
from the foot care chute, 3) holding areas should have drinking
water and feed available for cows
at all times, 4) soft, non-slippery
flooring in holding pens, crowd
pens and alleyways, 5) holding
pens, crowd pens and alleyways
should have shade, fans and
sprinklers, misters, or foggers for
cooling, 6) provisions for manure
management in the chute area
and holding pens, etc., via flush
or other system, 7) shade and
fan for the trimmer and cow in
the trim chute area, 8) water at
the chute for cleaning feet to
facilitate examination and treatment procedures, 9) electricity

The shoulder is the point of balance

This will cause her to back up

This will cause her to move forward


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 62

(grinders, lights, etc.), 10) a trimmers table for placement of

equipment and supplies while
working, 11) a storage cabinet
for foot care supplies near the
trim chute, and 12) a holding
area for cows that exit the trim
chute after trimming or treatment has been completed.
Size and/or capacity of the
holding areas is one of the primary concerns in proper design
of the foot care pen holding area.
If one assumes that somewhere
in the range of 30 to 60 cows
may be trimmed or treated per
day, then holding area capacity
should be large enough to
accommodate 20 to 30 cows
(assuming 30 cows worked in
the morning and 30 in the afternoon). A 30-cow holding area is a
large pen, and one person alone
may have difficulty sorting cows.
Therefore, large pens may be
subdivided into two smaller pens
for easier sorting of cows. When
two holding pens are available,
at least one should lead to a
crowd pen where cows may be
directed to the alleyway and
eventually to the trim chute
Each holding pen should have
shade (with fans, sprinklers or
misters as required to manage
heat stress), access to water and
feed and a soft, non-slippery
flooring surface. Efforts to make
this area as comfortable as possible are advised, since it is
assumed that often times these
animals are lame and may be
required to be there for a period
of time before being examined
and treated.
Cattle leaving the trim chute
may enter a holding pen where
they may be redirected back to
their pen of origin or to the hospital area for additional treatment. Provisions for this pen are
the same as for those suggested


The crowd pen is designed to
funnel cows from the holding
pen to the alleyway which leads
to the trim chute. Crowd pens
normally hold a maximum of 8
to 10 cows. When designed with
straight panels or fences, one
side of the crowd pen should
remain straight, while the other
approaches the alleyway at a 30
degree angle. A solid-sided
sweep gate is useful and prevents cows from escaping past
the handler. When crowd pens
are properly designed, one person can safely move animals to
the alleyway without the need for
Cattle generally move from a
crowd pen to the trim chute
through an alleyway. The alleyway to the trim chute should be
approximately 20 feet in length
which will comfortably accommodate about 3 cows. Solidsided alleyways have advantages
but are rarely needed unless animals are unusually excitable. On
the other hand, a solid-curved
alleyway prevents cattle from
seeing the chute until they are
within a few feet of entering.
Since cattle tend to move from
dark to light areas, light coming
through the head-catch into a
trim chute with solid sides is
sufficient alone to encourage
most cows to enter. It should be
emphasized that cattle would
tend to shy away from direct
sunlight pouring through a
head-catch. Thus, proper orientation of the head catch and trim
chute are important.
In large herds where trimmers
may spend as many as 8 hours
or more at the trim chute, a few
trimmer and trim-cow comforts
are in order. In summer, the

trimming station needs access to

shade and a fan for the benefit of
the trimmer as well as the cow
restrained in the trim chute. In
winter, there should be a wind
block and supplemental heat
when conditions require it. Also,
since trimmers may spend several hours standing at the trim
chute each day, a soft flooring
surface (rubberized) is advised.
Trimming stations also need a
source of water for cleaning feet
and lesions for proper examination and treatment procedures.
The trim area should have a
water hose and nozzle as well as
a floor design that permits good
The trim area also needs a
source of electricity for use of
power tools and supplementary
lighting in areas where natural
light may be limited. For trimmer
and cow safetys sake, electrical
connections should be ground
fault protected and located so
that they do not readily come in
contact with water (as from the
water hose). Proper lighting is
critical for good corrective trimming work. Ineffective lighting
often leads to corrective trimming errors and failure to detect
early lesions. Visualization of
lesions at trim chutes is often
times obscured by the orientation of the chute with the sun or
other light source. For example,
with sunlight behind the operator, the trimmers shadow often
obscures the view of lesions,
whereas when the trimmer is
forced to look toward sunlight (or
into the direction of a light
source), visibility is obstructed
by light which shines in the face
of the operator rather than on
the foot or lesion in question.
Trimmers also need a place for
equipment both while working
and during off-hours. A 3 x 6
work bench or table provides
ample surface area for equipment such as grinders, knives,
treatment supplies (bandages

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 63

and wrap material, topical medications, foot blocks, etc.). The

work bench or table should be
located out of the way of cattle
travel areas, but in a convenient
location for ready access by the
trimmer. Electrical outlets for
grinders, lights, etc. can be built
into the table or suspended from
above for convenient access during trimming. Since cold weather
delays curing of block adhesives,
some trimmers use an enclosed
heat lamp to keep blocks warm.
The adhesives set up much
faster when applied to warm
blocks. Finally, a lockable storage cabinet provides for secure
storage of equipment during offhours.

It is important that personnel
working with cattle in any capacity have a basic understanding of
their behavior. Theres generally
a very good reason why animals
dont do as we would like in certain situations. Looking at these
situations from the cows perspective often provides both the
explanation and a solution.
Cattle respond best to gentle
persuasion and worst to aggressive force. Patience is critical to
success in cattle handling.
Owners and supervisors of
personnel on dairies should
understand that not all persons
are cow people. In other words,
some people are better suited for
positions that do not require
close or frequent contact with
cows. Furthermore, cows, like
people, have bad days and good

days. For reasons unknown to

their handlers, animals feel anxious or otherwise uncomfortable,
which makes them more difficult
to work with at times. Its during
these moments that handlers
must be particularly sensitive to
behavioral responses to avoid
possible injury to either or both.
The expression the fastest
way to work cattle is slow says a
lot about how we should
approach cattle handling. Cattle
are basically very gentle creatures. When we use what we
know about their natural behavior and the way in which they
perceive their environment, we
make cattle handling safer, more
efficient and enjoyable.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 64

Selected References
1. Anderson, N: Observation on cow comfort using 24-hour time lapse video. Proceedings of the 12th International
Symposium on Lameness in Ruminants. Orlando, FL, January 9-13, 2002, p. 27-34.
2. Radostitts, Gay: Veterinary Medicine. Ninth Edition, 1979.
3. Blowey, RW: Laminitis (Coriosis) - Major risk factors. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference,
January 1996, p. 613-614.
4. Blowey, RW: Studies on the pathogenesis and control of digital dermatitis. International conference on bovine
lameness, June 26-30, 1994, p. 168-173.
5. Blowey RW: Interdigital causes of lameness. International conference on bovine lameness, June 26-30, 1994, p.
6. Braun, RK, Bates, DB, Shearer, JK, Tran, TQ, and Keiey, EM: "Efficacy of amoxicillin trihydrate for the treatment
of experimentally induced foot rot in cattle". Am J Vet Res 1987, 48;12:1751-1754.
7. Brizzi, A: Bovine digital dermatitis. The Bovine Practitioner, September, 1993, No. 27, p. 33-37.
8. Clackson, DA, and Ward, WR: Farm tracks, stockman's herding and lameness in dairy cattle. Vet Record, 1991,
9. Clarkson, MJ, et al: An epidemiological study to determine the risk factors of lameness in dairy cows. (As cited by
Ward), Proceedings of the International Conference on Bovine Lameness, Banff, Canada, 1994, p. 301-302.
10. Egerton JR, Yong, WK, and Riffkin, GG: Foot rot and Foot Abscesses of Ruminants. CRC Press, 1989.
11. Esslemont, RJ and Peeler EJ: The scope for raising margins in dairy herds by improving fertility and health. Br.
Vet. J. 1993, 149:537-547.
12. Faull, WB, et al.: Epidemiology of lameness in dairy cattle: the influence of cubicles and indoor and outdoor
walking surfaces. 1996. Vet Rec, 139:130-136.
13. Greenough, PR: "The subclinical laminitis syndrome". The Bovine Practitioner, 1985, 20:144-149.
14. Greenough, PR: "Pododermatitis Circumscripta (Ulceration of the Sole) in Cattle". Agri-Practice, Nov-Dec 1987,
p. 17-22.
15. Griffin, D: Sharpening a Knife Emphasis on Necropsy Equipment. Web site at, 1998, p. 1-16.
16. Guard, C: Recognizing and managing infectious causes of lameness in cattle. The AABP Proceedings, January
1995, No. 27, p. 80-82.
17. Guard, C: Laminitis in dairy cattle: Recognition of the disorder and management of the causative factors. The
AABP Proceedings, January 1996, No. 28, p. 71-74.
18. Guterbock, W. and Borelli, C: Footwart treatment trial report. The Western Dairyman, May 1995, p. 17-,18, 2324.
19. Leonard, F, et al: Effect of overcrowded housing conditions on foot lesion development in first-calved Friesian
heifers. Proceedings of the International Conference on Bovine Lameness, Banff, Canada, 1994, p. 299-300.
20. McDaniel, BT: "Management and housing factors affecting feet and leg soundness in dairy cattle". Proceedings
of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners 1983, 14:41-49.
21. Midwest Plan Service, Dairy Housing and Equipment Handbook, 1980.
22. Mortellaro, CM: Digital dermatitis. International conference on bovine lameness, Banff, Canada, June 26-30,
1994, p. 137-141.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 65

23. Mortensen, K: Bovine laminitis (diffuse aseptic pododermatitis) clinical and pathological findings. Proceedings
of the International Conference on Bovine Lameness, Banff, Canada, 1994, p. 210-226.
24. Mulling, CKW, and Lischer, CJ: New aspects on etiology and pathogenesis of laminitis in cattle. XXII World
Buiatrics Congress, August 18-23, 2002, Hannover, Germany, p. 258-267.
25. Nelson, DR, and Petersen, GC: "Foot Diseases in Cattle. Part I. Examination and special procedures".
Compendium of Continuing Education 1984, 6;9:543-550.
26. Ossent, P, and Lischer, CJ: Theories on the pathogenesis of bovine laminitis. Proceedings of the International
Conference on Bovine Lameness, Banff, Canada, 1994, p. 207-209.
27. Petersen, GC, and Nelson, DR: "Foot Diseases in Cattle. Part II. Diagnosis and treatment". Compendium of
Continuing Education 1984, 6;10:565-573.
28. Rajkondawar, PG, Tasch, U, Lefcourt, A, Erez, B, Dyer, RM, and Varner, MA: A system for identifying lameness in
dairy cattle. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 2002, ISSN 0883-8542, Vol 18(1):87-96.
29. Raven, T: Cattle Footcare and Claw Trimming. Farming Press Ltd., 1989.
30. Read, DH, and Walker RL: Papillomatous digital dermatitis and associated lesions of dairy cattle in California:
Pathological findings. International conference on bovine lameness, June 26-30, 1994, p. 156-158.
31. Read, DH, and Walker RL: Papillomatous digital dermatitis of dairy cattle in California: Clinical characteristics.
International conference on bovine lameness, June 26-30, 1994, p. 159-163.
32. Read, DH, et al: An invasive spirochaete associated with interdigital papillomatosis of dairy cattle. The
Veterinary Record, January 8, 1992, p. 59-60.
33. Read, DH: Papillomatous digital dermatitis (Footwarts) A disease of emerging national importance in cattle.
Proceedings of the 4-State Applied Nutrition and Management Conference, August 2 & 3, 1995, p. 134-143.
34. Rebhun, WC, Payne RM, King JM, Wolfe, M and Begg SN: "Interdigital papillomatosis in dairy cattle". J Vet Med
Assoc 1980, 177:437-440.
35. Rowlands, GJ, Russell, AM, and Williams, LA: "Effects of season, herd size, management system, and veterinary
practice on the lameness incidence in dairy cattle". The Veterinary Record 1983, 113:441-445.
36. Scavia, G. et al: Digital dermatitis: Further contributions on clinical and pathological aspects in some herds in
northern Italy. June 26-30, 1994, p. 174-176.
37. Shearer, JK: Lameness in dairy cattle: laminitis, claw disease, digital dermatitis, and foot rot. ADSA 91st
Annual Meeting, JDS, Vol. 79, Suppl. 1, P235, p.189.
38. Shearer, JK, Gillis, K, Tran, TQ, and Donovan, GA: "Foot Problems: A Comparison of Midwest versus Florida
Dairy Cattle". Unpublished data 1987.
39. Shearer, JK, and Elliott, JB: Preliminary results from a spray application of oxytetracycline to treat, control, and
prevent digital dermatitis in dairy herds. International conference on bovine lameness, Banff, Alberta, Canada,
June 26-30, 1994. p. 182.
40. Shearer, JK, et al: Control of digital dermatitis in dairy herds using a topical spray application of oxytetracycline.
ADSA 90th Annual Meeting, Cornell University, June 25-28, 1995, Vol. 78, Suppl. 1, No. P55.
41. Shearer, JK, et al: Effect of oxytetracycline topical spray treatment on prevalence of digital dermatitis in 4 herds.
ADSA 90th Annual Meeting, Cornell University, June 25-28, 1995, Vol. 78, Suppl. 1, p. 257.
42. Shearer JK, and Van Amstel, SR: Claw health management and therapy of infectious claw diseases. XXII World
Buiatrics Congress, August 18-23, 2002, Hannover, Germany, p. 258-267.
43. Smith, BP: Large Animal Internal Medicine. C.V. Mosby Co., 1990.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 66

44. Stanek, C, et al: Does the claw trimming procedure affect milk yield and milk quality factors? Proceedings of the
International Conference on bovine lameness, Banff, Canada, 1994, p. 306-317.
45. Stanek, Ch, Mostl, E, Pachatz, H, et al: Claw trimming, restraint methods and stress in dairy cattle. In
Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Lameness in Ruminants, Lucerne, Switzerland, September
7-10, 1998, p 13-16.
46. Vermunt, JJ: Predisposing causes of laminitis. Proceedings of the International Conference Bovine Lameness,
Banff, Canada, 1994, p. 236-258.
47. Ward, RW: Recent studies on the epidemiology of lameness. Proceedings of the International Conference on
Bovine Lameness, Banff, Canada, 1994, p.197-203.
48. Ward, RW: The role of stockmanship in foot lameness in UK dairy cattle. Proceedings of the International
Conference on Bovine Lameness, Banff, Canada, 1994, p. 301-302.
49. Weaver, DA: "Digital Sepsis: Etiology and Control". The Bovine Practitioner 1988, p. 23.
50. Weaver, DA: "Laminitis". The Bovine Practitioner 1988, p. 85-87.
51. Walker, RL: Footwarts in dairy cattle: Current understanding of a complex disease. Proceedings of the 2nd
Western Large Herd Dairy Management Conference, April 6-8, 1995, p. 33-40.
52. Webster, AJF: Effect of environment and management on the development of claw and leg diseases. XXII World
Buiatrics Congress, August 18-23, 2002, Hannover, Germany, p. 248-256.
53. Whay, HR, Main, DCJ, Green, LE, and Webster, AJF: Farmer Perception of Lameness Prevalence. Proceedings of
the 12th International Symposium of Lameness in Ruminants, January 9-13, 2002, p. 355-358.

Additional references available upon request of Dr. J. K. Shearer.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 67


Appendix 1. Footbaths


A. 10% Solution = 16 pounds in 20 gallons of water

1. Hot water will hasten dissolving. Addition of some vinegar will aid dissolving in hard
water. The solution must be kept reasonably clean since manure will de-activate it. Copper sulfate
should not be allowed contact with metal. It will corrode the metal, and contact with metal may inactivate the copper sulfate.
2. Copper sulfate is irritating to the feet and should not be used repeatedly at a concentration greater than 10%.
3. Sheep are very sensitive to ingested copper and will be poisoned if the solution is discarded where they have access to it.


A. Add 1 part powdered copper sulfate to 9 parts slaked lime


A. 5% Solution = 1 gallon of 36% formaldehyde in 19 gallons water.

1. It is very irritating when inhaled and should only be used or mixed outdoors. It is also
irritating to the skin and feet and should not be used repeatedly as a footbath at greater than 5% concentration. Formalin tends to harden the hooves with repeated use. Any residue solution should be discarded and a fresh batch mixed before each use. Otherwise, the mixture may become too concentrated
from evaporation.
2. Formalin is monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency under SARA Title III
and all suppliers and/or distributors are required to keep records of sales. No more than 500 lbs.
should be kept on-site at any one time.
3. Use of formalin is prohibited in some areas. Readers are advised to consult with their
local regulatory agencies for clarification before use.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 68

Appendix 2. Topical treatment for digital dermatitis

Oxytetracycline HCl
Lincomix soluble powder by Pfizer (16 grams of Lincomycin HCl)
VictoryTM by Westfalia Surge
Oxytetracycline HCl soluble powder
Mix one 100-gram packet of oxytetracycline in 1 gallon of distilled water. This makes approximately a
25 mg/ml concentration. If using the 50-gram packet of oxytetracycline, add 2 packets to 1 gallon of
distilled water or 1 packet in a half gallon to achieve the same concentration.
Smaller herds or herds treating a smaller number of animals may use 1-2 Terramycin (10 gram packets) in a quart of water. This makes approximately a 10-20 mg/ml concentration of oxytetracycline
which is more dilute but still effective.
Lincomycin HCl soluble powder
Mix 1 packet of Lincomix in 2 liters (quarts) of distilled water. This makes approximately an 8 mg/ml
concentration of Lincomycin HCl.
Use as directed on the label
Use as a topical spray. Apply to heels and interdigital space (cleft) or areas with visible lesions using
a garden-type hand pump sprayer or other suitable spray treatment device to completely cover the area
(10-20 cc per foot).
Week 1
Treat all feet of all cows once daily for a period of 5-7 consecutive days.
Week 2 and beyond*
Continue daily topical spray treatment of all cows with visible lesion(s) only.
*Because lesions tend to reoccur, topical spray treatment must be continued. Periodic re-treatment
(every 3-4 months) of all feet of all cows as described for Week 1 treatment is advised.

This treatment represents an extra-label use of these products, so dairymen are advised to consult
with their veterinarian for proper mixing, labeling and additional application instructions.


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 69

Appendix 3.
Sharpening hoof knives
Dr. Dee Griffin, on his website: Sharpening a
Knife describes the sharpening of a double edge
knife. A knife blade has three important angles:
the reflection angle (RA), the transition angle (TA),
and the cutting angle (CA) which constitutes the
cutting edge (See figure at right). All hoof knives
come with an RA which is approxiatemly 15
degrees from perpendicular. The TA is that portion
of the edge lying between the RA and the cutting
edge. The TA runs between the RA and CA at about
a 20 angle. And finally, the CA extends from the
TA to the cutting edge and is about 25 to 30
degrees from perpendicular.
Hoof knives are designed with a single sharp
edge, and it is intended that only this side be
sharpened (see figure). However, since the beveled
side is also curved in concave fashion, sharpening
of a hoof knife compared to a conventional double
edge knife is a bit more complicated. In some cases
thinning the blade (or establishing a more desirable RA and TA) is necessary to create a more
effective CA. This is best accomplished through
the use of a belt sander as described below.
Belt sanders equipped with sanding belts containing aluminum oxide or other resin suitable for
metal are very useful for preparing new knives or
very dull knives for sharpening. Belts with extra
fine grit (~ 220), no wider than 1" (2.5 cm) and at
least 30" to 42" (.75 to 1 m) long are most popular.
Pre-grinding knives permits one to properly thin
the blade and provide a more desirable RA and TA.
Creation of the CA is best accomplished with files
or a bench grinder fitted with sharpening and buffing wheels as described below.
Sharpening knives on a whetstone may be
accomplished by using a straight forward stroke
against the stone at a 25-30 degree angle or by
rotation of the knife against the abrasive surface in
a circular motion. Files used for sharpening hoof
knives are usually flat, round or oval. As with the
whet stone, a straight forward stroke against the
knife edge with the file held at a 25-30 degree
angle creates the most desirable cutting edge. As
indicated above, most advise sharpening the concave side of the knife. Although it is not recommended, some operators are able to achieve an
acceptable cutting edge using a flat file or flat whet
stone on the convex side of the blade. However,
sharpening the convex or flat side of the knife creates a double edge. Rounded or oval files and
sharpening stones are easier to use on the concave
side of the knife edge. Rounded or oval files are
available from most farrier supply stores. Both
sharpening techniques will work, but success with

Edge of a hoof knife



15 degrees

20 degrees

25 - 30 degrees


either requires practice. The hook of the knife may

be sharpened on the concave side with a chain saw
file. Some advise rotating the file as it drawn
through the hook.
Six-inch bench grinders fitted with sharpening
and polishing or buffing wheels are a fast and
effective way to sharpen knives. Unless the grinder
to be used is capable of bi-directional rotation of
its wheels, it will be necessary to make the following alterations. First, remove the protective wheel
covers from the grinder. Next, rotate the base of
the grinder (180 degrees) so that the backside
faces the operator. With the grinder in this position
the wheels rotate away from the operator when the
unit is turned to the on position. In this way,
knives which may be inadvertently caught by a
wheel are thrown away from, rather than toward,
the operator. For the sake of safety, it is critically important to hold the knife edge upward


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 70

when preparing to sharpen or buff the cutting

edge. Failure to do so will increase likelihood of
the knife edge to cut into the sharpening or buffing
wheel which not only increases danger to the operator but usually results in serious damage to the
The proper orientation of the cutting edge to the
grinding surface of the wheel is about 25-30
degrees. Starting at either end, the knifes cutting
edge is gently placed against the grinding surface
of the sharpening wheel (at a 25 to 30 angle) and
drawn across the length of the cutting edge. The
hook of the knife is sharpened in similar fashion,
but instead of sharpening its concave edge, only
the convex side is sharpened.
There are several types of sharpening wheels.
One that may be used for sharpening hoof knives
is a rubberized 6-inch disc impregnated with silicon carbide (120 grit, Matz Rubber Co., Burbank,
CA, model No. 606-F). This wheel is particularly
useful for first time sharpening of new knives.
Since new or dull knives frequently have rounded
cutting edges, this more abrasive wheel effectively
thins the cutting edge to create a more shallow
slope. As might be expected, there is a tendency to
overheat the knife blade during the grinding
process. This should be avoided as excessive heating may destroy the temper of the metal. It is
advised that a cup of water be close at hand when
sharpening knives to cool the blade and prevent
Once the edge of the knife is prepared with the
proper CA, it is ready to be honed to a sharp edge.
Buffing or polishing wheels dressed with rouge
(polishing compounds) are used to remove any
burrs (the turned-up metal edge on the CA) and to
hone a smooth, polished surface on the knife edge.
Felt-type polishing wheels (Medium and Hard
Density, McMaster-Carr, Atlanta, GA) are ideal for
this purpose. Thus, one can go from the rubberized sharpening wheel to the hard density felt
wheel to achieve the desired cutting edge.
It should be emphasized that safety is a primary
consideration when using a belt sander or bench
grinder for thinning blades and sharpening knives.
Since most grinders are capable of 3200 to 3600
RPM or more, there is significant potential for
injury. Protective eyewear or face shields and respiratory masks should be worn whenever using
this equipment. Burrs that form on the sharpened
edge of the knife may be removed with a file, whet
stone or the grinding and buffing wheels. The technique for de-burring is as follows: as with sharpening, be sure the wheel is rotating away from the
operator. The edge of the knife is de-burred by
placing the convex side against the flat side of the
wheel with the cutting edge in an upward direction


(TOP) Use of a round or oval file is preferred for sharpening the concave side of a hoof knife.
(CENTER) Round files are ideal for sharpening the hook
of the knife.
(LOWER) Flat files are best used on the convex side of the
knife. Sharpening this side of the knife creates a doubleedged knife. Maintaining a single edge provides the operator with greater control when trimming.

Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 71

(i.e. the same direction in which the wheel is rotating). One or two strokes along the edge is usually
sufficient to de-burr the cutting edge. Once a knife
has been sharpened, it may be protected by storage in an old teat cup liner.

(TOP RIGHT) A bench grinder fitted with the appropriate

fiber wheels.
(CENTER RIGHT) Grinding wheels for knife sharpening
include fiber wheels and an abrasive rubber wheel. To the
left of the wheels is a rouge, an abrasive compound
applied to the fiber wheels for proper honing of the knife
(LOWER RIGHT) The knife edge should be held at a 25 to
30 degree angle with respect to the sharpening wheel to
create the best cutting angle. A cup of water is used to
avoid overheating the blade during sharpening.
(LOWER LEFT) A protective face shield is recommended to
avoid injury when sharpening knives with a bench


Foot careITC


12:35 PM

Page 72

The Master Hoof Care Program was initiated in 1997 by a grant

from the Florida dairy farmers Dairy Check-Off Program. Its original
purpose was to provide training in foot care and claw trimming for
dairy farm employees. The program has since expanded to provide
specialized programs for veterinarians, professional trimmers and
others interested in foot care. Because of the large number of
Hispanic employees on dairy farms, the course is also offered in
Spanish. All lectures, laboratory instruction and course materials
are in Spanish. The course has three parts: 1) the 4-day training program in foot care and claw trimming, 2) a 3-6 month study period
whereby participants continue to practice and study to perfect their skills and understanding of
the techniques presented in Part 1, and 3) completion of a written/oral and laboratory practical
examination. Participants who successfully complete Part 3 are distinguished as Master
Trimmers in the Master Hoof Care Program. This program has achieved national and international identity and attracts participants from all over the world. In 2003, faculty of the Master
Hoof Care Program received the U.S. Department of Agricultures Group Honor Award for
Excellence and the Secretary of Agricultures Honor Award for outstanding innovation in animal
health. For more information, please visit the following web site:

Dr. Sarel Van Amstel, Dr. Adrian Gonzalez, Dr. Jan Shearer

Leslie C. Shearer serves as Program Coordinator for the Master

Hoof Care Program. In this capacity, she is responsible for the
collection and preparation of cadaver specimens, coordination of
the trimming laboratories on local dairies, maintenance of program equipment and supplies and all correspondence relative to
registration, and requests for general information.