Milk production – the critical importance of foot bathing cows

A standard Moore Concrete foot bath: dimensions 4000mm (132?) long x 1100m (37?) wide x 300mm (1') deep.
A standard Moore Concrete foot bath: dimensions 4000mm (132?) long x 1100m (37?) wide x 300mm (1') deep.

Lameness is, fundamentally, a welfare issue which has a direct bearing on cow performance. For example, a severe case in the first month of lactation can reduce 305-day milk yield by 350 kilos.

Lameness will also reduce fertility levels. The overall cost of a lameness case is £330 per cow. This figure takes account of both direct and indirect costs.

Regular foot bathing has been confirmed as a crucially important way of controlling infectious diseases, such as digital dermatitis. Baths can be put in place as single or coupled units and set up in a way that allows for ease of filling, emptying and cleaning.

Increasing numbers of farmers are now using foot baths in tandem. The first bath is filled with clean water, which provides for the additional washing of hooves. Cows are also, more likely, to dung in the first bath. This approach ensures that the second bath, containing the active solution will be more effective over a longer period of time.

For foot bathing to be successful, an effective antimicrobial product must be used. It is also important to foot bath dry cows and heifers. Research has also confirmed that foot bathing, pre or post milking, is equally effective.

Footbaths should be calibrated to ensure the correct concentration of solution is used. In terms of frequency, there is a ‘no one size fits all policy”. However, regular bathing – between three and seven times per week – may be necessary to control infectious diseases, including digital dermatitis and lameness.

Moore Concrete manufactures a range of precast footbaths to meet the requirements of all dairy farms. When considering sighting a footbath, research has shown that this is most effective when incorporated into the cattle’s normal routine. Hence Moore Concrete’s range is designed for use in different areas of farm buildings. For example, on some farms the preference is for the cows to be actually standing in a footbath solution while at a drinking trough, on other farms, footbaths are located at the exit to the parlour or robot. Approaches of this kind ensure that the cows are foot bathed regularly. They also relieve part of the work burden at milking times.

Footbaths can include a slightly roughened floor, providing secure footing for livestock. When filled, they contain solution to a minimum depth of four inches, enough to cover the heels, although a depth of six to eight inches is often recommended according to AHDB research. They further recommend a length of 3 to 4m to ensure cows take three to four steps when walking through the footbath.

The baths can be easily emptied, simply by pulling out the 100mm (4’) bung that can either be located in the base or side wall. If the baths are placed on slats, the liquid falls into the slurry tank below.

For further information, speak to a member of the agricultural team at Moore Concrete on (028) 2565 2566 Ext 1 or see the website www.moore-concrete.com/footbaths