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Use of foot baths on farm

Use of foot baths on farm

On many farms footbaths are in use but they do not get the results they were looking for. The main reasons for this can be a poorly designed bath or the solution used in the bath is not appropriate. Patrick Gowing, Teagasc Dairy Expansion Service Advisor, tells us more.

Foot baths should be no longer than 3m as a bath longer than this can be contaminated by the cows as they walk through. Pre wash bash are no longer recommended for the same reason as the cows will then tend to soil the bath with the solution in it as the cows walk through them. Too short a bath is not suitable as the cows may not drop all their feet in the solution or some feet may only drop in the solution once.

The rule of thumb is to have 1l of solution for each cow pass. So a 200l footbath will allow 200 cows through it before it has to be refreshed. Additional passes of the cows above this may actually help spread infectious disease and as the solution is no longer effective and the foot bath can be soiled from the previous cow passes. For the majority farmers this would mean refreshing the solution between each milking.

Some farms with larger herds may have to wash out and refresh the solution during milking.

Each footbath requires 1l of solution per cow. The depth of the solution in the bath should be between 10-15 cm.

To calculate the size of your footbath you multiply to length x width x the depth in centimetres and divide by 1000 to convert to litres.

The floor of the footbath should be level with the exit race the cows are existing on to improve the cow flow through the footbath

Some farmers are now using automatic footbaths. These foot baths are programmable for different chemical rates and can count the number of cows that pass through them and automatically empty, wash out and refill with solution when the pre-set numbers of cows pass though. They normally have 2 options for different chemical that can be added and are safer for the operator if dangerous chemicals such as formalin are being used on the farm.

To install and automatic foot bath the farmer will be required to have a power supply, air supply and water from a wash down hose close to where the footbath will be installed.

The Teagasc Dairy Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to dairy farmers every Monday here on Teagasc Daily.