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Foot Rot: How Trace Minerals Can Help

Foot Rot: How Trace Minerals Can Help

Foot rot can occur in all ages of cattle at any time of the year, especially with the excess mud and moisture of spring. Hooves are similar to fingernails: they are made out of keratin and become soft when overexposed to moisture. Once hooves are soft their structural integrity can be easily compromised by hazards, making them more susceptible to open wounds and infection.

What’s the Economic Impact of Foot Rot

Foot rot or lameness can cause decreased weight gain and milk production. In a study conducted at Oklahoma State University, over three years, affected steers gained 2.3 pounds per day while steers not affected gained 2.76 pounds per day. If left untreated, foot rot can infect deeper layers of tissue and may result in cattle having to be culled from the herd.

How to Treat and Prevent Foot Rot

Foot rot in cattle is caused by the bacteria Fusobacterium necrophorum. Often veterinarians will prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory products to treat foot rot and reduce pain for infected cattle. If the disease is caught early on, foot rot treatment is often successful. Always consult with your veterinarian first before treating.

Prevention of foot rot requires best management practices and preventive tools. Management-wise, it is recommended to keep cattle in dry environments when possible or pastures with less standing water. As for preventive tools, foot baths, mineral supplements with zinc and vaccinations can all help reduce incidences of foot rot.

How Trace Minerals Can Help Prevent Foot Rot

According to Oklahoma State University, zinc is an important micronutrient in maintaining good skin and hoof integrity. Therefore, adequate dietary zinc should be provided to help minimize foot rot and other types of lameness.

The same three-year study conducted at Oklahoma State found that adding zinc methionine to a free-choice mineral supplement reduced the incidence of foot rot and improved daily weight gain in steers grazing early summer pasture.

However, according to Dr. Jeff Hill, a senior ruminant nutritionist at Ralco, “It’s not only the level of zinc in a mineral but the ratio of zinc to other trace minerals that matters.”

Hill goes on to say that zinc can cause more damage than good if not formulated correctly. For example, when incorrectly formulated the ratio of zinc to copper in a mineral can negatively impact the microbial population in the rumen due to their antimicrobial properties.

Mineral must be balanced and sourced correctly so that zinc and copper bypass the rumen and break down later in digestion in the small intestine, so that cattle can experience the benefits, such as improved hoof integrity. Trace mineral nutrition should keep hooves healthy, but also enhance the overall immune system of cattle. This will help cows better fight off infections associated with foot rot.

To learn more about mineral options that help with foot care, contact ruminant specialist Dr. Jeff Hill at 507-337-6916 or email

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