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Mortellaro's disease (Digital Dermatitis) or Italian foot rot is a stubborn hoof disorder that occurs on almost all cattle farms. Characteristically it shows as a wound on the hoof claw skin, usually where the skin between the claw merges into hoof horn. The condition is red and strawberry-like, is very painful and it smells badly. Characteristically, you see the hairs around the infection site standing straight up. Besides reduced well-being, it also causes major economic damage.

Cause of Mortellaro's Disease

Mortellaro's disease is caused by a mixture of bacteria, Bacteroides nodosus, Treponemes, Fusobacteria necrophorum and anaerobic bacteria (including Spirochetes).

Mortellaro's Disease Infections

Risk factors for incidence of Mortellaro's disease:

  • Pathogens – New animals from buying in new cows or mixing herds can lead to pathogens being brought into the herd.
  • The cow – Metabolism problems (negative energy, metabolic disorders) and irregular hoof trimming can lead to increased risk of Mortellaro's disease. Good overall resistance will make the hoofs less susceptible to infections.
  • The environment – Humid conditions combined with poor floor/litter hygiene (manure) make an ideal climate for bacteria to survive and multiply.
  • Once the infection is in the housing, other cows will pick it up from the manure. Manure is a great living environment for bacteria.

Mortellaro's Disease Symptoms

Cows with Mortellaro's disease appear lame. The cow moves less easily, remains lying down more and allows herself to be pushed out at the feed fence/drinking trough. She shows an ambling movement when walking (alternating load between legs) and abnormal hoof positioning. And the cow will show less signs of heat. Often, you will only discover the hoof disorder when trimming them.

The Consequences of Mortellaro's Disease

  • Lameness
  • Inflamed hoof/swollen heel
  • Lower milk production
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced fertility
  • Earlier culling
  • High handling costs and a risk that the milk is not fit for sale

Mortellaro's Disease Prevention

Good management is very important for preventing hoof disorders. You should give consideration to measures that will address the following:

  • Herd hoof trimmin: Better and more frequent hoof trimming. Have a hoof care professional do it and catch hoof disorders in the early stages, so that you avoid more serious damage. And it is wise to trim the hoofs on cows when you dry them off.
  • Feed Metabolism: disorders influence the hoof horn quality and can lead to chronic hoof disorders. MS Bovi Support is a feed supplement that supports normal metabolism.
  • Housing: A clean floor, good climate in the housing, maintaining a good dry bed by using MS DryCare and avoiding overcrowding all contribute to hoof disorder prevention.
  • Footbath management: Fortnightly use of a footbath is important hoof disorder prevention. Using MS Megades Novo, MS Formades and MS Dermades will provide a good footbath.

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