Foot Rot Prevention Strategies
By: Jill J. Dunkel
Dr. Connie Larson, Ruminant Research and Nutri- tional Services Manager with Zinpro Corporation said anything cattlemen can do to minimize environmental issues that lend themselves to foot rot, such as cleaning pens regularly or building mounds so cattle have a dry place to be, are important.
“Wet, muddy pen conditions are perfect for foot rot. In confinement or pasture cattle when the conditions are wet, skin between the claws may soften. When that skin gets soft or has an abrasion, it allows the entrance of bacteria that can lead to foot rot,” she said.
Beyond minimizing environmental factors, nutrition can play a key role in prevention and managing claw lesions such as foot rot. When included in a ration or mineral package, certain trace minerals help protect the integrity of the foot. Zinc has a critical role in helping improve epithelial tissue integrity, as does iodine and copper, Larson said.
Dr. Jeff Heldt, Ruminant Business Manager with Micronutrients said zinc plays a critical role in keratin formation. “That is why zinc and foot health are often paired together,” he said. “When we start having foot problems, we reach to do something to help or prevent an outbreak. Zinc is one of the first things we look at.”
However, providing effective zinc, iodine and copper supplementation is not just as simple as grabbing a bag from the feed store. It’s important that the trace minerals fed are from a bioavailable source, and that cattle are getting adequate consumption of the minerals.
The most common forms of trace mineral sources are inorganic. However, these forms are inconsistent, varying in terms of absorption. Feeding a highly-available form of trace minerals allows for more metal to be absorbed into the blood stream where it can be readily utilized by the animal.
Minerals that are more bioavailable do cost more, however the absorption of the trace minerals is an important cost consideration when looking at improved minerals, versus inorganic minerals.
Providing a highly-available source of mineral likely won’t improve the situation overnight. From a prevention standpoint, it takes more time.
“It takes around 45 days to get the trace mineral status in the liver to adequate if the animal was deficient,” said Heldt. “That’s why it’s important to use a bioavailable source early on to shorten that time. Instead of 45 days, maybe we can get those calves to adequate in 21 to 30 days.”
Larson said ideally a bioavailable trace mineral, should be fed 30 days ahead of a bacterial challenge in order to enhance the immunity of animals and help prevent an outbreak.