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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care September 2006

Hi Folks,

Since we still have a couple months pasture season left I'd like to talk about lameness due to its importance for grazing cows. We will hopefully have a nice period of green growth with much needed rain. One quick reminder before discussing lameness -keep in mind that during the cooler season, legume pasture bloat can more easily occur. This kind of bloat happens when ruminants are on a leguminous stand (clover/alfalfa) for a few days in a row while also not receiving enough dry hay to create a functional fiber mat in the rumen. If by chance you do get a cow or cows with bloat due to this, a fairly good and effective (and legal for organic) treatment is to carefully give them a pint of vegetable oil orally, walk them around for 15 minutes, then give another pint of vegetable oil and allow them to walk around freely.

As for lameness, there are many causes, some being environmental while some are contagious. Environmental causes give rise to abscesses stemming from puncture of the hoof. Environmental conditions can also harbor certain germs and give rise to foot rot and strawberry/ hairy heel wart. These are contagious conditions that pass from cow to cow while they share the same loafing areas, etc. Hoof ulcers are not common in herds I work with and are caused by rumen acidosis (high grain ration with not enough effective fiber). I am sure that mineral imbalance can lead to poor hoof health and therefore allow problems of all kinds to occur. So, like many problems, it comes down to the cows' nutrition and the environment they live in.

I inspect hooves for any signs of problems. All hooves I lift to treat also receive a cleansing prior to any wrap. This includes hydrogen peroxide and then iodine tincture once the problem area is located. For foot rot - that area between the claws that become infected and have a soft and blackened area that stinks - I treat with a mix of white table sugar and povidine iodine (Betadine®). It takes very little Betadine to mix with the sugar to make a thick paste. I apply a good size glob of it on cotton, press the cotton up between the hooves, and then wrap with a hoof bandage wrap, making sure to spread the claws apart from each other a little bit. This must be repeated in 3-4 days. Foot rot generally occurs, I believe, when a stone punctures up between the two hooves. It definitely happens if an animal has an interdigital growth (a corn) that gets punctured by a stone. When there is a corn, I cut these out and then cleanse and apply a wrap. Again, the wrap needs to be changed in three days. Even cows that have some fairly severe swelling above the hoof, if due to foot rot, will turn out good from this treatment.

Strawberry heel (hairy heel wart) is also a contagious condition and can be fairly severe in some herds. I believe a relatively "hot" grain heavy ration (resulting in less than optimal hoof health) can cause this if there is the right environment (muck). The flip side would be too poor a nutritional plane (also giving less than optimal hoof health) mixed with a lot of muck the animals stand in. Strawberry/hairy heel always occurs at the hoof-hairline junction. At the area, I cleanse as described above, and if it is "plump" strawberry, I carefully pare away the surface with a hoof knife. Once the surface layer is removed, nearly anything will work on a strawberry/hairy heel wart. For any hairy heel wart, the "grint" /scab must be scuffed away for whatever topical medicine to penetrate and be effective. I wrap with sugar and Betadine mix since it is OK for organic anyway. Why sugar mixed with Betadine? Basically it is an incredibly good antiseptic and inhibits bacterial growth.

Cows with abscesses may only be slightly lame and progress with time or may be immediately obvious. The ones that are dead lame all of a sudden usually have a puncture and abscess in the area at the tip of their toe. The ones that are lame little by little more likely have a puncture and abscess further back towards their heel. Other tips to help you locate the abscess area are to look for any moist black tracts and pare these out as they usually lead to the abscess. Additionally, if there is an under worn area (i.e. a build up of hoof), this indicates the cow is not walking on that area, likely due to pain, and therefore pare the build-up away and usually a blackened area or the abscess area itself will become obvious. One last thing, 90-95% of the time the outside claw is usually effected on the rear leg while it is usually the inside claw that is effected on the front leg. Finding and opening an abscess up is the main treatment. Cleansing with peroxide and iodine tincture is always needed for these. Then soaking with Epsom salts is fine if you like (OK for organics). I would simply use the Betadine-sugar mix as a wrap. You can leave the wrap on for 5-7 days and then remove it without needing to re-wrap. If you have properly located and opened up the abscess, the animal should be well on the way to recovery by then. However, if an abscess is not opened up enough, cattle have an incredible ability to wall off the remaining problem - and then it is much, much harder to correct as the abscess will drive into the joint. This can lead to serious lameness and swelling above the hoof that will not so easily correct (as it can with properly treated foot rot). Occasionally a claw needs to be amputated if the problem has not been properly addressed on the first try and succeeding attempts are not successful.

By the way, icthammol is not allowed by PCO - however it is allowed by some other certifiers. So be careful with icthammol. Copper sulphate is OK for organic use but I do not see it work very well as an actual treatment, except perhaps early footrot. These reasons are why I like to use the Betadine-sugar mix now. Also, copper sulphate footbaths raise concerns about loading the land with toxic levels of copper. Hydrated lime powder is a nice alternative for the cows to walk through and is not messy. However, it cannot be applied to certified organic land. Happy grazing!

NOTES: Josh Gutman will be conducting an auction of consigned certified organic cows at the farm of John S. Stoltzfus on Tuesday September 19. Call him for more details at 443-677-3629 or John at 610-857-9237 if you have some cows for sale or want more details.

Amos N. Beiler, 1600 Noble Road, Kirkwood has (4) 12' x 24' Shade Masters for sale. They are 2 years old and in excellent condition. He is asking $300 per unit. 717-529-5507

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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