The footbathing of cows is an important management tool to prevent issues like lameness. But to ensure you get the maximum benefit from footbathing, cow flow and product contact time needs to be monitored.

Cow flow

Ensuring good cow flow through the bath means there will be less splashing. This means that less of the solution is wasted and there is reduced risk of contaminating the teats. Cows moving through the bath at a steady pace also means longer contact time with the chemical. All this adds up to less stress for the cows and farmer. The simplest way to assess your cows' flow through the footbath is to look at their heads. When cows are not stressed, they naturally walk with their heads held low, watching where they put their feet, and choosing their steps carefully. Heads held high is a bad sign. Similarly, if you are herding cows too quickly their heads will be up. To encourage good cow flow when footbathing you should:
  • Make cows familiar with the footbath - this improves with frequency of use, as cows like routine;
  • Ensure that the footbath is comfortable to walk through - rubber matting allows cows to walk with more confidence;
  • Ensure the footbath is not a bottleneck - once cows have left the footbath they should be able to move to the shed or field.

Contact time

Good cow flow ensures a better contact time, but to be effective the solution needs to come into contact with the right parts of the cows’ feet. Your footbath solution must cover the skin above the hoof, including that at the front of the foot. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) recommends that a footbath be at least a depth of 12cm and at least 3m long. This is because two foot 'dunks' are generally better than one, so having a footbath at least 3m long means every foot is dunked at least twice.

A bath measuring less than 2m might mean that some feet don’t get dunked at all.

Another factor that may impact contact time with the solution is how clean the cows' feet are. No footbath will be effective if dirt is covering the hoof. Another factor to be looked at is how many cows are entering the bath before the solution is changed. A good rule of thumb is not to have more than one cow passage/L of solution. So if your footbath holds 100L, a maximum of 100 cows should pass through it before the solution is changed.