We are thankful for recent rains, but the downside is that the flies are here! What do flies have to do with foot rot issues? Flies cause the cattle to bunch up or go swimming to get away from them. Foot rot can occur anytime of the year, but it is more prevalent in summer months.

This common disease of cattle can cause severe lameness and decreased weight gain in beef cattle. The primary infectious agent for foot rot is Fusobacterium necrophrum, an anaerobic bacterium. Anaerobic bacteria will only grow in environments that lack oxygen. F. necrophrum is commonly found in the environment along with in the rumen and feces of normal cattle.

How does the animal develop foot rot? The animal develops an injury to the skin between the claws allowing the bacteria to gain entry and cause disease. Injury is often caused by walking on abrasive or rough surfaces, stony ground, sharp gravel, hardened mud or standing in a wet and muddy ground for prolonged periods of time. Our beautiful high temperatures and humidity during the summer months also increase incidents as it causes skin to chap and crack.

The bacteria can survive in the environment for one to ten months. Wet conditions may allow it to survive even longer. The biggest problem locations tend to be around mineral feeders, gate exits, watering holes and tanks, pastures corners and fence lines where cattle bunch up.

  • What to look for?
    – Sudden onset of lameness
    o Very painful
    o Often toe touching only
    o One or more limbs can be affected
                – Hindlimbs more often than front
    – Swelling above hoof
    – Decrease grazing, increase laying time
    – Will break open and drain
    – Can spread to deeper tissues
    o Bones, tendons and joints
    o Swelling – more severe and can go higher up leg
  • Other causes of lameness
    – Founder/Laminitis
    – Fractures
    – Soles abscesses
    – Fescue toxicity
    – Toe abscesses
    – Nail, stick, etc
    – Wire around leg
  • Incubation period of disease is roughly a week.

Early recognition and treatment are vital for curing the disease.

Most common treatments for Foot Rot
1. Draxxin
2. Long-Acting Tetracyclines (LA 200)
3. Nuflor
4. Excenel or Excede

In severe cases and ones that do not respond to antibiotics courses.
1. Surgical removal of infected tissue
2. Claw removal
3. For valuable animals, claw salvage surgery may be attempted
Supplements with extra levels of Zinc and/or organic Iodide can help improve skin and hoof health

Vaccinating against F. necrophrum may be helpful in reducing incidence and severity of disease. Good management programs including supplements and vaccination programs to improve overall immunity of the cattle can help reduce the number of cases of foot rot in a herd.