Instances of infectious lesions that can cause lameness in dairy cows may increase during the winter months, but steps can be taken to decrease the risk, according to researchers at Zinpro Corporation.

Many dairies use footbath programs to keep lesions under control, but some products become ineffective in cold conditions. Infectious lesions can be caused by several factors besides inadequate footbaths, including poor environmental conditions, stress, other infected cattle, lack of claw maintenance and inadequate micronutrients. “To determine if infectious lesions are a problem in the herd, we advise producers to review their hoof trimming records,” said Dr. Jeff DeFrain, research nutritionist for Zinpro. “By comparing the incidence of infectious lesions versus non-infectious lesions, the primary cause of lameness can be identified.”

If infectious lesions do turn into a winter problem, various management strategies can be employed, such as practicing good biosecurity procedures, focusing on maintaining sanitary conditions for the cows, using cow hygiene scores to track lesion issues, maintaining a good micronutrient program and maintenance trimming cows at least twice a year.

Footbath programs, said DeFrain, can also be improved for the winter months. Ensure cows have access to a clean area after passing through the footbath, use 5% copper or zinc sulfate solutions instead of formaldehyde when solution temperature dips below 45 degrees, change the solution every 150 to 200 cows and drain and rinse the footbath before mixing a new solution. If icing around the footbath becomes a problem, adding salt, installing heated floors, setting up temporary footbaths in warm areas or switching to a spray program are all viable solutions.