Cow footbaths: good cow flow and contact

Good cow flow through a footbath reduces splashing, which wastes less detergent while reducing the risk of teat contamination. Find out how to encourage good cow flow and contact.

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The importance of good cow flow and contact

Good cow flow means less splashing, which wastes less solution and reduces the risk of contaminating the teats. A steady pace also allows longer contact time with the chemical, as well as being less stressful for cows and people.

Do your cows walk through steadily and willingly?

You can assess the effectiveness of the cow flow through your footbath by looking at your cows’ heads. When they aren’t stressed, cows naturally walk with their heads held low and look at where they put their feet. Heads held high are a bad sign.

To encourage good cow flow, the bath should be:

  • Familiar - this improves with frequency of use, as cows like routine
  • Comfortable to walk through - rubber matting allows cows to walk with more confidence. The floor should not be ridged or slippery
  • Not a bottle-neck - make sure the area beyond the footbath has a good walking surface and doesn’t become a pinch point

A narrow footbath works well when cows are walking in single file, such as exiting a rotary parlour platform or along an exit race. If you need the whole herd to move through quickly, wide footbaths work better so that one hesitant cow doesn’t cause a backlog.

Does the disinfectant solution reach the right parts of the foot and for long enough?

Good cow flow ensures a better contact time, but to be effective, the disinfectant 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. This means you will need a depth of at least 12cm.

Two foot dunks are generally better than one, and this means having a bath at least 3 m long. 3.5 m long ensures that every foot is dunked at least twice, whichever foot the cow leads with. A bath measuring less than 2 m might mean that some feet don’t get dunked at all.

Be wary of systems that rely on spraying the heels, as these might not get solution to all areas of the feet, particularly the front. However, spray systems can be useful for cleaning the heels before feet are dunked in a footbath.

Cow footbaths

Cow footbaths: maximising detergent effectiveness

Cow footbaths: chemical dilution rate

Cow footbaths: ease and frequency

Cow footbaths: narrow and wide footbath designs