Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University Dairy News

June 2017 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Footbaths and Hoof Health

Warmer temperatures contribute to higher incidences of hoof ailments during the summer months. Management practices, including the use of footbaths and routine hoof trimming, are your best allied force against hoof disease. The Adams Progar lab at WSU will wrap-up a two-long study on behavioral indicators of hoof disease by the end of this year. Our study aims to test the effectiveness of an alternative footbath product compared to copper sulfate and identify the impact hoof disease has on cow behavior. In light of the upcoming summer heat, here is a review of information related to hoof health:

  1. Annual estimated costs related to hoof disease

    Mild cases of lesions (any form of lesion) cost an average of $169/affected cow; whereas, severe cases cost an average of $538/affected cow. When comparing incidences of digital dermatitis, sole ulcers, and white line disease, sole ulcers tend to incur the highest cost for treatment, labor, loss of milk, etc.

  2. White line disease

    The highest prevalence of white line disease occurs in older cows (4+ lactations) during late lactation (200+ days in milk). Keep this in mind as you observe your cows for hoof disease.

  3. Digital dermatitis

    The highest prevalence of digital dermatitis occurs in first lactation cows during late lactation (200+ days in milk).

  4. Sole ulcers

    The highest prevalence of sole ulcers occurs in older cows (4+ lactations) during mid-lactation (100-199 days in milk).

  5. Rear feet vs. front feet

    Lesions are 80% more prevalent in a cow’s rear feet than the front feet. This is one reason why at the WSU Knott Dairy Center, we have been working with a hoof specialist to analyze all lactating cows’ rear feet on a monthly basis.

  6. Footbath products

    While copper sulfate and formaldehyde are the most popular footbath products, alternatives (such as organic acids) have been shown to be as effective or slightly (4%) more effective than conventional products.

  7. Hoof trimming

    When comparing whole-herd hoof trims vs. partial-herd hoof trims (specific cows are selected to get hoof trimmed), herds that use partial-herd hoof trims have 40% higher prevalence rates for infectious digital dermatitis than whole-herd hoof trims.

  8. Footbath use

    Using a footbath on a bi-weekly (every two weeks) basis leads to nearly 25% more cows with active digital dermatitis than if a producer uses the footbath on a weekly basis.

  9. Herd-level lying behavior

    The average number of hours cows spend lying in a day (~10 – 12 hours) remains consistent, even if a herd’s lameness prevalence increases.

  10. Cow-level behavior

    First lactation cows spend less time lying for an extended period of time, which means they lie for a short period and then stand again. This improves as they progress through their first lactation. Thanks to Vantage Dairy Supplies, the Adams Progar lab is collecting cow behavior data with the CowManager® system (Figure 1). We hope to better understand how hoof disease impacts other behaviors, such as eating.

Stacked bar graph representing the activities of cows throughout each day.
Figure 1. Example of behavior data collected from CowManager®. This graph shows how much time (as a percentage of the total day) a specific cow spent ruminating, eating, and being active during each day.

Dear Dairy Farmers: Did you complete your Pest Bird Management Survey?

Flock of birds mobbing the roof of a storage building.
Figure 2. Survey reminder postcard.

A couple of weeks ago, you should have received a survey in the US mail or an email from the WSDF with a link to an online survey. Researchers from Washington State University and Trinity Western University are studying pest bird damage and current pest bird management practices used on Washington dairies. Our goal is to determine the true economic impact of pest birds on dairies and identify the most effective methods of pest bird deterrence. This survey is your opportunity to share how pest birds impact your farm. Please help our team help you. The deadline is July 1st.

If you would like more information about this project, please contact Amber Adams-Progar (, 509-335-0673).

Update from WSU Cooperative Dairy Students – CUDS

Since April, there has been a baby boom within the CUDS herd. After five months without heifers, we now have five! During the summer months, members are in and out of Pullman but still working on their projects and goals. Our sire selection and reproduction chairs are diligently working towards incorporating Jerseys into the CUDS herd. Jeff Wendler from Columbia River Dairy is graciously donating ten sexed Jersey embryos with the hopes of getting them implanted by the end of June. The calves, heifers, & dry cows and nutrition chairs are beginning the process of collecting urine pH’s in our close-up cows. The nutrition and herd health chairs are collaborating to test BHBA concentrations of our fresh cows to help detect incidences of subclinical ketosis thanks to a testing kit provided by Church & Dwight. The public relations chair is currently working on her project aiming towards introducing all our current members to the public through Facebook (follow us at CUDS of WSU). Throughout the latter portion of the spring semester and through the beginning of the summer, CUDS members have been meeting with industry professionals to prepare for CUDS Annual Review.

Dairy Nutrient Management Tools Workshops – Two Scheduled in Western Washington

Join us in Lynden on Wednesday August 1 or in Enumclaw Thursday August 2 for a closer look into how you can best manage your dairy farm nutrients with helpful and resourceful tools. Get the inside scoop about relevant state farm issues—nutrient and precision nutrient management, feed management, compost, manure and food safety, and irrigation.

Workshop is free of charge to all. Registration is not necessary, just remember to sign in when you arrive. Lunch and morning snacks will be provided. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Lynden Public Library (Lynden Meeting Room)
10:30 AM to 3:00 PM

Wednesday August 2, 2017
Green River College, Enumclaw Campus (Room 15 upstairs)
10:30 AM to 3:00 PM

Dairy Nutrient Management Tools Workshop Agenda

  • 10:15 AM Registration, Coffee and Morning Sweets
  • 10:30 AM What Goes in Must Come Out. How to Reduce on Farm Feed Imports of Nitrogen and Phosphorus – Joe Harrison
  • 11:00 AM Connecting Feed Decisions with Crop Nutrient Management Plans – Joe Harrison and Liz Whitefield
  • 11:30 AM Tools for Practical Irrigation Scheduling – Troy Peters
  • Noon Lunch (Provided)
  • 12:30 PM Turn your Compost Up a Notch with the Compost Mixing Tool Calculator – Andy Bary
  • 1:00 PM Precision Nutrient Management in Western WA – Doug Collins
  • 1:30 PM Lagoon Liners. Case Studies from Three Dairies – Joe Harrison
  • 2:00 PM Fall Soil Nitrate Testing- Factors Affecting Test Values – Andy Bary
  • 2:30 PM Food Safety Implications with Manure – Andy Bary
  • 3:00 PM Adjourn

Why All the Buzz about Genomics?

The dairy industry has always been on the leading edge of advancements in animal science. Groundbreaking research in nutrition, genetics, technology and reproduction helped develop key management practices underpinning dairy profitability and worldwide competitiveness. The next major game changer is here: genomic testing is now available and affordable at the farm level.

A genome is the entire collection of an individual’s DNA. The bovine genome contains 22,000 to 25,000 genes. There are places on chromosomes where individual animals can differ in their DNA sequence. These markers are called “single nucleotide polymorphisms” (SNPs). SNPs are of great interest to geneticists because they help explain and predict differences between individuals.

Genomics examines how genes interact to influence how an individual develops. A tissue sample (such as an ear snip from a dairy calf) can be analyzed and a mass of data can be obtained about that animal’s genetic merit. It is no longer necessary to breed a bull or cow and keep records on its progeny’s performance to determine the parent’s breeding value, a process that takes years for initial data collection and many years for improved accuracy. Genomic testing now makes it possible to predict the potential performance of individual animals directly, saving time and hastening on-farm genetic progress.

In the early days of genomic testing, a computer chip was developed that could assess 50,000 (50K) SNPs in the genome of a submitted sample. This complete test remains expensive, but research advancements have resulted in chips that test 6K or 7K of SNPs for about $40 a sample and are nearly as accurate measures of genetic breeding value as the 50K test. Custom chips can be developed as well. Genomic results on each animal are submitted to the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, which calculates the predicted transmitting ability (PTA) of various traits. Producers can use an individual animal’s PTAs with the same confidence as high accuracy data from bull progeny tests.

The major focus of current genomic-based selection is on economically-important traits. For example, net merit dollars (NM$) is an estimate of lifetime profitability of a specific dairy cow compared to a baseline of same breed herdmates. NM$ is a favored indicator for selection because it includes several traits of economic importance, such as milk production, fertility, calving ease, health and longevity.

How can producers use genomic testing to benefit a farm’s bottom line? A group of replacement heifers could be tested and only those with high genetic merit could be selected for development. Those with lower genetic potential could be sold, bred to calving ease beef bulls for higher-value beef crosses, or kept as ET recipients. Sexed semen could be used selectively in high genomic breeding value heifers, justifying the higher cost of such semen.

In the future, producers will increasingly turn to genomic testing to reduce the incidence of involuntary culling factors such as lameness, mastitis and metabolic diseases. Genomic testing will identify animals with higher feed efficiency—another very valuable trait. Look for genomic testing results to start appearing in sale catalogs, too.

Something to keep in mind about all this selection for rapid genetic progress will be if and how management systems will need to change to accommodate these genetically-superior animals. For example, finely-tuned nutrition programs for these high production potential herds will be more critical than ever. Nevertheless, being able to identify and develop a farm’s best heifer prospects through genomic testing should help producers focus limited resources (such as space, feed and labor) on individuals with the greatest likelihood of contributing to farm profitability in the long run. Genomic testing is indeed worthy of the buzz it is receiving.