In a unit for rearing and reproductive testing of young Mertolengo-breed bulls there is a high prevalence of Digital Dermatitis in housed bulls with impact on health, welfare, performance and operational costs. The unit includes 12 pens with straw bedding. Although washing and adding clean and dry straw to the bed is done regularly (more often in the rainy season), Digital Dermatitis (DD) is often diagnosed in some animals, especially in hot-humid weather and in recently introduced bulls.

DD is an infectious and contagious disease caused by bacteria (Treponema spp and Dichelobacter nodosus). It causes lameness (severe local pain) and weight loss. In 2019, with the help of the Veterinary practice (HVME) responsible for the clinical support, a prevention programme was initiated. This consists in the application of two products called Cobiotex and Cobiodry on the bedding and as foot-baths, respectively. The aim is to inhibit bacteria growth in the straw-bedding as well as treat-prevent infection in an early stage.

The advantages of this strategy are a reduction of the operational costs in treatments, improved animal health and welfare and performance of breeding bulls as well as feedlot bulls. The programme was designed by the Veterinary practice in accordance to products’ instructions it needs an increase in labor to get the animals walk through the footbaths and to spread the product on the bedding. Furthermore, product costs arise. For the success a very rigorous treatment calendar, immediate treatment of recently brought-in bulls and improved biosecurity rules were necessary.

Digital Dermatitis has an important impact on welfare and performance, but prevention is possible and rewards by foot-baths and litter management as well as biosecurity.


  1. Relun A. (2011): Evaluation des mesures de maitrise de la dermatite digitée dans les troupeaux bovins laitiers
  2. Klitgaard, K. et al. (2014): Discoveryof bovine digital dermatitis-associated Treponema spp. in the dairyherd environment by a targeted deep-sequencing approach
  3. Zinicola, M. et al. (2015): Altered Microbiomes in Bovine Digital Dermatitis Lesions, and the Gut as a PathogenReservoir

This Good Practice has an Impact on:

  • Socio-economic resilience: Even after adding the extra expenses with the product and working hours there is an overall positive economic benefit. This is due to a decrease in treatment costs, veterinary work and weight loss.
  • Animal health and welfare: "Digital Dermatitis causes severe pain; animals will lie down more often and for longer; food intake will decrease resulting in weight loss; breeding bulls may refuse to mount; fertility and growth may be affected. With this good-practice DD is prevented and health and welfare is safeguarded."
  • Productefficiency and meat quality: By reducing weight loss, fertility problems, pain and stress, production efficiency is maintained.

For more information about infectious claw disorders on the BovINE knowledge hub see:
On farm hoof sanitization
Digital dermatitis: An expert vision of foot pathology
Preventing Digital Dermatitis.