Cleveland County still needs major rains to lift us up and away from the residual drought damage left in the wake of 2011.

I stated many months ago that by early summer we would begin to see the real damage unfold.

Now, as our perennial pasture grasses are shifting to high gear through the dead masses of winter annuals, we see damage is severe in some areas.

While we are still dry from a drought recovery standpoint, the showers we have had are causing a common foot problem among cattle.

Foot rot is a nasty disease resulting from wet, humid conditions. This disease is caused by the bacteria Fusobacterium necrophorum invading the tissue between the toes. It enters the tissue through abrasions or areas softened by wet conditions and once established, releases toxins that cause swelling and tissue decay. As the infection works into the deeper tissues, the signs become 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 between the toes. Treatment depends on catching the infection early before it works into the deep tissues.

Oxytetracyline 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.

When cattle are moderately to severely deficient in dietary zinc, supplemental zinc may reduce the incidence of foot rot. Zinc is important in maintaining skin and hoof integrity. Therefore, adequate dietary zinc should be provided to help minimize foot rot and other types of lameness.

Treatment of foot rot is usually successful, especially when instituted early in the disease course. Treatment should always begin with cleaning and examining the foot to establish that lameness is actually due to foot rot. At this time, a topical treatment should be applied.

Some very mild cases will respond to topical therapy only. Most cases require the use of systemic antimicrobial therapy.

Your veterinarian may deem it necessary to use or oversee the use of one of these restricted drugs as a treatment for non-responding cases. If at all possible, affected animals should be kept in dry areas until healed. It is important to know, 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.

Heath Herje is an agribusiness educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension service. He writes a periodic column for The Moore American.

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