Hoof trimmers, industry representatives and sponsors gathered in Syracuse, New York, July 19-22 to attend the Hoof Health Conference.

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Shamrock Cow Care

The Hoof Health Conference is held every 18 months in locations throughout North America. This year’s location was chosen for being close to both western New York’s large dairy farming region and Cornell University.

The conference started with a business meeting followed by two days of presentations and then a day on a farm with demonstrations. Additionally, there was time for vendor trade show interaction, off-site dinner excursions, award ceremonies, spouse trips and bonding with fellow trimmers.

Highlights of the conference were presentations on anatomy, changes in use of tetracycline, efficacy of antibiotics, non-antibiotic treatments, cost of lameness and use of social media.

Dr. Reuben Newsome, a research veterinarian from England, presented new research indicating ulcers in hooves may not appear for reasons we thought they did. Most research indicated ulcers were a result of rumen acidosis.


Newsome did not entirely rule this out, but his research found ulcers were more related to poor digital cushion factors, more specifically to shrinking fat pads in the soles of hooves. Much of his findings were related to seeing more thin cows being lame.

Vic Larson and Mark Green practice their skill Vic Larson and Mark Green practice their skill during the demo day at Sunnyside Farms LLC in New York. Photo provided by Skip Blake.

Thin cows were five times more likely to be lame as cows with a normal to heavy body conditioning score. As expected, his research also indicated early treatment was a key factor in healing lameness.

Dr. Chuck Guard, a veterinarian from Cornell University, presented information regarding the use of tetracycline. Tetracycline has long been used for the treatment of Mortellaro’s disease (hairy warts or digital dermatitis). As most in our industry know, tetracycline (as of January 2017) is no longer available as an over-the-counter drug.

Additionally, milk will be randomly sampled for tetracycline. Vets, farmers and trimmers need to be very careful when using tetracycline. There is no label use for hooves, so any use is off-label and needs to be under vet prescription.

The U.S. legal limit for tetracycline in milk is 300 parts per billion. Research on topical use in treating Mortellaro’s disease indicated readings far below this level. Responsible use at current levels may not be too much of a concern.

On the other hand, trimmers are continually looking to alternative treatments. Some current products showing some success are salicylic acid and some creams with cooper sulfate, iodine or other chemicals, but these have little to no research.

Dr. Sarah Wagner, a veterinarian instructor from North Dakota State University, gave a presentation on the use of antibiotics. There are few published clinical trials on antibiotic use in lame cows. Currently, we are still not sure if antibiotics are helpful in treating sole ulcers.

Penicillin has been proven effective in treating Mortellaro’s, but the dosage rate is prohibitive (45 cc’s twice a day for three days). Tetracycline has been proven effective, but its use is off-label and needs to be under a prescription.

Guard gave another presentation on the cost of lameness. He first detailed the many possible outcomes of lameness, then tried to set costs for each event. Possible outcomes were death, premature culling, treatment, discarded milk, lost production and delayed conception.

Costs associated with death and culling were the replacement cost of a springer or the cost of raising a replacement. Cull cow replacement cost was offset by gain in selling a cull cow. Milk lost was offset by less feed consumption. Discarded milk was offset by feeding to calves.

Other costs were treatments from vet or trimmer. Through his calculations, an average total loss for a lame cow was $527 with a lot of variation based on current milk and cull cow prices. Milk not made was the highest cost factor.

Along with his wife, Lee Carlson, a retired hoof trimmer from Minnesota, gave a presentation on retirement planning. They stressed the importance of starting early and finding a good financial planner. Also, it’s important to find good activities to fill in your time once you do retire.

At the awards banquet, several trimmers received their 30-year membership plaques. Ed Spencer received his 40-year plaque. This year’s lifetime achievement award was presented to Guard for his many years of service to the hoof trimming industry.

The last day of the conference was “demo day,” a day at a farm where trimmers could watch each other use new chutes with various staging gates on display. There was also a cadaver station in which trimmers could practice on dead hooves.

The farm selected was Sunnyside Farms LLC, owned by Neil Rejman. Sunnyside milks around 4,300 cows in a 100-cow rotary parlor. Neil was an outstanding host and allowed visitors access to all of his operation.

The conference concluded with a farewell banquet followed by a benefit auction. Several thousands of dollars were raised. This money is set aside for hoof research. Besides learning from the speakers, many tips on new equipment, products and what really works were discussed among trimmers.

PHOTO 1: Skip Blake points out trimming techniques to other trimmers.

PHOTO 2: Vic Larson and Mark Green practice their skill during the demo day at Sunnyside Farms LLC in New York. Photos provided by Skip Blake.

Skip Blake