1 min read

"Oof, my hoof."

TL;DR:

  • Digital dermatitis is the infection and inflammation of the hooves of cattle.
  • The timing of the infection was compared to the animal's rumination and activity levels at that time.
  • Heifers with digital dermatitis spent 3% less time per day ruminating and 3% more time inactive.

What you need to know: Digital dermatitis has nothing to do with the internet but a lot to do with feedlot profitability—digital, meaning fingers/hooves, and dermatitis, meaning swollen and blistered skin.

Digital dermatitis is the infection and subsequent inflammation of the claws of cattle and, in recent work, has been shown to impact the productivity of animals in a feedlot situation.

In a first-of-its-kind study, heifers at a feedlot in Alberta were observed for limping and noticeable hoof infections. These observations were used to record when an animal contracted digital dermatitis. The onset of the infection was compared to the animal's level of rumination and activity over the previous five days, using sensor data from a tag in the heifer's ear.

Prevalence of the infection was high, being found in 33 of the 84 heifers. Additionally, the sensor data found that dermatitis affects the animal's activity and rumination activity. The difference? Heifers with digital dermatitis spent 3% less time per day ruminating and 3% more time inactive. Decreased activity and rumination could hurt the average daily gain and feed efficiency of the animal.

The important asterisk*:

  1. The smaller number of animals used in the study could unintentionally skew data; however, it does not limit the value of the findings.
  2. Visual observations are hard to complete accurately, consistently due to human error. Because of this, some infections were likely missed or finding delayed.

Industry Application:  Pen riding and training feedlot personnel to watch for digital dermatitis could be a valuable practice. Catching and treating the infection early ensures the animal can be more efficient and leave the feedlot sooner.

Read more about it: Impact of digital dermatitis on feedlot cattle behaviour.