Foot trimming link to spread of digital dermatitis

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have, for the first time, revealed that digital dermatitis (DD) has been present on hoof knifes used on cattle and sheep following research jointly funded by DairyCo and EBLEX.

The research conducted at the University investigated if DD Treponeme can be present on equipment used to trim cattle and sheep hooves. The research team, led by Dr Nicholas Evans and Professor Stuart Carter of the University of Liverpool and in collaboration with veterinarian Roger Blowey, tested trimming equipment used on cattle and sheep with digital dermatitis and after it was disinfected.

After trimming, DD was present on 97% of cattle blades and 100% of sheep blades. This was reduced to 29% and 46% respectively after disinfection.

“It has long been considered that digital dermatitis was spread in slurry which we have some evidence for and are continuing to investigate but now, for the first time, we have discovered the digital dermatitis bugs in the farm environment,” said Dr Evans.

“However, the high detection rate of digital dermatitis bacteria on trimming blades soon after trimming cattle and sheep hooves from digital dermatitis cases suggests this may be a significant and worrying route for the transmission of this infectious condition.”

Leigh Sullivan, who conducted the field work as part of her study, said: “Interestingly, in the world of human dentistry, a completely different species of the bacteria is found to cause gum disease. Furthermore, studies have shown it will adhere to metal on orthodontic braces which is consistent with our detection of the digital dermatitis Treponeme on metallic trimming knives.”

Dr Jenny Gibbons, DairyCo research & development manager, added: “This DairyCo and EBLEX-funded study could help farmers, vets and hoof trimmers to understand more about the transmission of digital dermatitis between cows and farms. A logical precaution to limit the spread is to disinfect hoof trimming equipment between animals and between farms.”

To find out more about this and other R&D projects, DairyCo is hosting a research day on 17 July at Trenault Farm, Launceston, Cornwall.

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