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Footbath protocols for success and simplicity

Jim Edwards for Progressive Dairy Published on 31 October 2019

Consistency is usually a positive term when describing footbath management. However, there are so many footbath management variables that one or more mistakes can easily be made. Without a simple, well-defined footbath protocol, the only consistent result will be poor footbath management and poor hoof health.

When thinking about footbath protocols at the dairy, we should consider two audiences, each with their own set of protocols:

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1. Managers/owners – Thorough, well-thought-out protocols with explanations of the reasoning for each recommendation (This helps management to understand the recommendations, interpret footbath success or determine potential protocol changes.)

2. Staff – Simple with little potential for misunderstanding

Manager/owner protocol

When evaluating the success or failure of your present footbath program, management should first review the present protocol. Ensure the protocol is accurately meeting the guidelines and recommendations for your current footbath volume, present herd/pen sizes and that it includes correct footbath solution preparation for the current treatment product in use. Any change affects recommendations.

During this evaluation, it is critical to have a separate discussion of the current program with the footbath operator. Although management may have a clear view on the “intended” footbath program, the operator controls the “actual” footbath being mixed and utilized. Much like the old dairy nutrition adage, “The ration on paper is often different from the ration in the bunk,” the same can be said for the footbath.

The discussion with management must also establish their acceptable hoof health goals and results. These are examples of hoof health goals:

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  • Exceptional – Less than 10% wraps on trimming report

  • Marginal – 50% reduction in wraps from present trimming report

Achieving either of the above standards is determined based on where the herd hoof health is today. Nothing demonstrates that better than a detailed hoof trimmer’s report.

An exceptional expectation may begin with a herd having excellent hoof health and looking to improve economics through a few management changes. Or the exceptional expectation may be for dramatic improvement from current poor hoof health. Achieving that often requires significant footbath management changes.

The marginal expectation may be as simple as a herd with excellent hoof health providing a small window for improvement and change. Or it could be a herd with 30% or more wraps on the trimming report. The owner weighs marginally improved hoof health versus cost.

Staff protocol

The staff protocol is the simplest list of instructions for those routinely preparing the footbaths. Keep in mind, instructions are not recommendations. Recommendations are suggestions with explanations of reasoning offered to the dairy’s management/ownership for their approval or disapproval. Instructions are clear directives on preparing the footbath with no room for interpretation. The recommendations to management are used to develop the staff protocol (instructions) most capable of achieving management’s goals.

Certainly, some staff may also be part of management/ownership and participate in footbath management discussions; however, the staff protocol should be in the simplest form. Place a copy for quick reference near the footbath in a plastic sleeve or have it laminated to avoid water damage.

If translation is needed, be sure the translation is done correctly. Someone in management should quietly observe the footbath’s preparation by non-English-speaking staff to assure translation accuracy and simplicity.

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It’s common to meet dairy owners who have not participated in footbath management themselves but rather delegated all hoof health responsibility to others. Often, these owners only use the hoof trimmer’s report as a measure of footbath success or failure without knowing the practices producing the results. If footbath management has been delegated from the owner to others, be certain to involve those responsible for managing the footbath in your discussions of footbath success. This establishes an understanding and appreciation for potential changes to the present footbath program in a positive manner.

Table 1 illustrates the management discussion guide to produce the simplest instructions for footbath staff.

Example comparison of footbath management

Click here or on the image above to view it at full size in a new window.

Keep in mind, Table 1 is only an example of the discussions and protocol for a specific dairy. Its purpose is to demonstrate the potential detail of discussion points for consideration to produce the most simple footbath protocol for footbath operators. Each dairy is unique and should take their own constraints into consideration when developing protocols.

Remember, fewer words in a staff protocol means less to communicate or interpret. This improves the accuracy and consistency of footbath management to improve herd hoof health.  end mark

Dr. Jim Edwards has a doctorate in ruminant nutrition and is the Hoof-Zink sales and technical specialist for Sirius LLC. 

Jim Edwards
  • Jim Edwards

  • Hoof-Zink Sales and Technical Specialist
  • Sirius LLC
  • Email Tim Clarks

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