Foot rot is an ongoing problem, especially in the early summer. With wet conditions, cattle producers can expect even more problems than usual, according to Dave Sparks, DVM, and Oklahoma State University Area Extension Food-Animal Quality and Health Specialist.

It is important to know, however, that not all lameness problems are foot rot and with a little care and planning the incidence and severity of the problem can be controlled, he says.

Foot rot is caused by a bacteria, Fusobacterium necrophorum, that invades the tissues between the toes. It enters the tissue through abrasions or areas softened by extremely wet conditions. Once established, the bacteria releases toxins that cause swelling and decay of the tissues. As the infection works into the deeper tissues, the signs become more severe and control becomes more difficult. Infected animals shed organisms into the environment where they can infect other cattle for up to 10 months.

The main sign of foot rot is swelling between the toes, usually in one foot only. As the disease progresses the swelling works higher up the lower leg. On closer examination you can usually find breaks in the skin in the tissues between the toes.

Treatment depends on catching the infection early before it works into the deep tissues. Oxytetracyline (LA200) or time release sulfa boluses have worked well for treatment and are available over the counter. Topical antiseptics also help as does confining affected animals in dry conditions. For resistant cases your veterinarian can suggest prescription antibiotics. Producers who utilize a mineral containing chlortetracycline for control of anaplasmosis may also find that it helps to reduce the incidence of foot rot.

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