Although the causes of digital dermatitis (DD) are not fully understood, research has shown both locally and globally that bacteria present in the everyday dairy environment targets areas of poorer skin integrity. Currently the main tool in the fight against DD is the regular foot-bathing of cows feet in a variety of treatments, addressing the problem from an ‘outside in’ approach. Currently it is well proven through research that when trace minerals such as zinc, copper and manganese are fed in a bioavailable form they play an important role in maintaining hoof integrity and reducing the severity of claw lesions such as solar ulcers and white line disease.
Thompsons in conjunction with Zinpro decided to explore the possibility of creating a trace mineral product which worked internally to boost both the immune system and improve skin integrity. The concept revolved around the knowledge that both skin quality and immune function can be improved with specific supplementation of certain highly bio-available Zinpro trace minerals. Technical teams from both Thompsons and Zinpro worked together to formulate the “DD pack” which has been proving itself on-farm across Northern Ireland, including the Donnelly dairy unit just outside Sixmilecross.
Ronan Donnelly, and his father Hughie, milk 125 cows in Co. Tyrone. Since taking over the family farm Ronan has made many improvements to farm buildings, including the installation of a new milking parlour 12 months ago, which has allowed him more time to focus on cow management; especially fertility, cow health and feet. The installation of ‘feed to yield’ software in the parlour ensures that cows are now target fed and as a result body condition remains much more stable through the year. Ronan is also happy that he has been able to feed his first cut silage to the milking cows since mid-November and will have enough to do right through until turn out.
“First cut analysed at 25% DM, 14.3% protein and 10.9 ME which we were happy with given the weather last May and we have enough of it so we don’t have to chop and change diets and upset cows,” says Ronan. With a current rolling herd average of 7800 litres sold per cow at 4.06% fat and 3.3% protein last year the aim is to turn out low yielding cows full time - and as early as possible - and graze high yielders by day and buffer fed at night.
All cows were housed in October and by November Ronan had noted an increased in the level of DD across the herd. Foot bathing frequency was increased for three weeks but didn’t have the positive impact that Ronan had expected. Since early December the Thompsons’ DD pack has been incorporated in the dairy blend to help with the control of the disease. Given the fact that the DD supplement has only been fed to cows for 10 weeks at this point, Ronan has still noted a major improvement in cow lameness across the herd. “There are definitely fewer cases (of DD) across the herd since we added the DD pack to the blend and if we do see a cow with DD she is much more easily treated than before,” adds Ronan. DD was always acknowledged as a management issue that needed to be addressed by Ronan, and he had been actively trying to improve it for some time. “Cows with sore feet spend too much time standing with one foot up or lying down instead of being up feeding at the barrier and then lying down. We have lost litres and body condition as a result of digital dermatitis in the past.”
The DD pack has been incorporated into the Donnelly’s dairy blend alongside the Availa 4 mineral pack and cows are fed to yield in the parlour with Thompsons’ 18% HGM dairy compound. For more information on how you can improve the performance of your herd contact your local Thompsons’ representative or sales on; 028 9035 1321.
Thompsons' Denise Rafferty and Kevin McCaffrey advise Ronan and Hugh Donnelly on how to achieve the best performance from their herd.
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