Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Foot Rot, Fescue Related Lameness Can Decrease Cattle Gains

By David Burton
University Extension

Lameness in cattle is not a good thing when research shows daily gains on stocker steers and heifers could drop as much as 0.50 pound per day according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“Lactating cows will experience a drop in milk production which can result in slower gains on their nursing calves. From the bull’s standpoint, sore feet could cause him to totally stop breeding cows during his lameness,” said Cole.
Foot and/or hoof problems typically are thought to arise from a bacteria, Fusobacterium necrophorum that invades the animal through a break in the skin.
“The break can come from the skin being soft from being in water or in lush wet pastures. Stiff forage stubble, rocks, brush hogged sprouts or any other sharp objects such as nails or wire can result in puncturing the skin,” said Cole.
Foot rot can invade front or rear feet.
According to Cole, when foot rot is prescent, there is pronounced swelling in the hoof area and the toes spread part and there is a break in the skin. A foul-smelling odor is detectable when the hoof is examined.
“Normally antibiotic treatment along with a direct application of medication between the toes will clear up the problem in a few days,” said Cole.
A second cause of lameness may be related to the fescue endophyte fungus or ergot. This lameness differs in that the affected feet normally are the rear ones and antibiotics or other medication seldom give relief.
“The fescue-related problem results from the consumption of compounds produced by a fungus, either visible or invisible to the naked eye. At this time of year, there is a good chance the ergot fungus that develops on the fescue seedheads is the culprit,” said Cole.
That fungus can result in poor circulation in the animal’s body and rear legs and tail switches may actually slough off. A close inspection of the leg may show a ring around the pastern area where the skin has broken and spots of hair can be missing above the hoof.
The use of antibiotics can help prevent some secondary infections, but won’t correct the problem. It is best to remove the cattle from the pasture where the problem was first noted.
Next, the cattle showing the worst symptoms should be put in a non-fescue or novel-endophyte fescue pasture and fed some concentrate and alfalfa-grass hay.
“Repair is slow and may not occur. Rear hooves that don’t slough off likely will show extra growth during the next year. Good producing cows may be worth trying to straighten out, but don’t expect a miracle,” said Cole.
Producers who have cattle that may have been affected by the ergot or fescue toxins should contact University of Missouri Extension.
“We would appreciate knowing about it so we can continue research into fescue-related lameness,” said Cole.
For more information, contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Mt. Vernon, (417) 466-3102; Gary Naylor in Dallas County, (417) 345-7551; and Dona Funk in Cedar County, (417) 276-3313.

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