Digital Dermatitis

I’ve been around a long time now and clearly I must be getting older as I seem to have started reminiscing about home a lot! However, a bit of experience is never a bad thing and sometimes reflection on events can be a powerful tool in moving your business forward. I try my best to look back subjectively on a regular basis about what has or has not worked over the last few years and what might have affected any results or performance on farm.

As much as I would like to say we have made big strides in terms of lameness control on most of our units, there remains a worryingly high residual rate of digital dermatitis (DD) on a large proportion of our farms. That also applies to many of our beef units too, especially if they are beef cattle on a mixed dairy enterprise.

DD is a much underestimated issue. The reality is that high rates within milking herds will undoubtedly reduce output and longevity of the cattle. It has a great ability to cause a number of knock on problems like under run soles and exaggerated heel erosion, that require precise and regular trimming to overcome.

Worryingly, the Ruminant Nutrition team here at Crediton Milling in Devon we are seeing a number of herds getting constant flares of outbreaks throughout the year. This would often appear to stem from a lack of DD control in dry cow groups and increasingly it is stemming from a high infection rate in maiden heifers. Most people will feel that they are doing an adequate amount to control DD in their herd, but not many are doing anything with their heifers or dry cows. Let’s not forget too, that we are seeing a number of beef herds suffering with DD too and that is undoubtedly extending their time to finish.

These issues have lead us to look closely at ways of controlling DD and working with partners that have a longer term outlook on trying to solve the problem. We have a close affiliation with Zinpro and have used complexed organic minerals such as their Availa®Zn in our hi-spec minerals for a number of years to improve horn growth, skin recovery and keratin teat plug formation, but it also has a significant additional plus of increasing feed conversion efficiency, particularly in beef finishing systems.

The team at Zinpro have been working on a theory for the last 10 years that they could restrict the effect of DD in all systems if they could reduce its spread during its earliest opportunities to infect
young animals. Their strategy is not confined to a foot bathing one.

It uses foot bathing as a control measure in the event of an outbreak, but does not rely solely on a regular daily or weekly bathing routine.

Instead it relies on specific mineral uptake according to size of animal during its early months and years of life.

This specific mineral is the result of a raft of research work stemming back from beyond the last ten years, reinforced by peer reviewed trial data put together from more than 20 clinical field evaluations across America as well as Europe that replicated the initial scientific research studies.

This means that they are the only company with data to show the use their mineral supplement (Availa®Plus) has demonstrated a 60% decrease in the incidence of DD in pre-calved heifers as well as increasing milk production from the heifers in their first year of lactation by up to 550kg.

For those of you with beef cattle the Availa®Zn data has shown a consistent improvement in daily live weight gain alongside a decrease in the feed conversion that amounts to an economic return in excess of 16:1.

As Availa®Zn is a major part of Availa®Plus beef finishers around the world have reported less health challenges and a reduction in DD alongside an increase in feed efficiency.

We have decided to run with a specific feed system for pre-bulling and then post bulling animals and dry cows. There will also be a supplement that will allow you to add the product at the required rate into a TMR mix. The cost of treatment over the initial six month pre-calving period will cost around 2.6p per day whilst giving a typical return in the first lactation of 14:1 in milk alone.

To do this properly requires some discussion, as Availa®Plus is a treatment purely for non-lactating animals. A strategy to maintain the efficacy of the original treatment throughout their milking life requires some thought, but we are more than happy to put the time and effort into what we believe is a significant step forward towards total control of DD in your herds. Likewise, we are comfortable with discussing the positives of using Zinpro minerals in our cakes or in your TMR. In a difficult climate, influencing health traits and performance efficiency are critical to your sustainability and success.

Crediton Milling in Devon are producers and suppliers of cattle and dairy feed and offer carefully researched ruminant, cattle, dairy and poultry feed advice

Pete Davis
Ruminant Nutritionist

M 07872 970635