Foot Problems

When we bought our first goats, hoof trimming was mentioned briefly. Basically we were told if the goats have rocks to walk on, their hooves wouldn't need to be trimmed very often. Well, we've got rocks!! Lots and lots and lots of rocks. Rocks grow faster than our weeds and are everywhere – especially in the garden and hay field and goat paddocks. No one bothered to mention other foot problems we might face, i.e., foot scald and/or foot rot.

To begin with, hooves not needing trimming if you have rocks or other rough surfaces for your goats to walk on is a myth. Some people claim excessive hoof growth is the result of feeding grains; we don't accept that argument either. Although we have been able to find no scientific proof, we are firm believers hoof growth is a result of genetics. All of our goats have rocks to walk on; all of our goats are fed the same; but not all goats need their hooves trimmed at the same rate. Indeed, we have some goats that never seem to need to have hooves trimmed and others who end up on the grooming stand with regularity. While we aren't overly fond of hoof trimming, rarely do we find overgrown hooves themselves to be a "problem."

To us, the real foot problems are foot scald and foot rot.

Whenever we are at the barn and are approached by a goat holding a foot in the air or when we look out into the pasture and see a goat grazing while standing on its knees, we know we have a foot problem (or two, three, or four).

The most frequent condition we find is foot scald, also known as interdigital dermatitis. This is caused by bacteria and normally occurs when we have an excessive amount of rain and the goats are walking around in mud and muck. The indication of foot scald is a white spot on the skin between the toes; often this area is swollen. Since goats are extremely sensitive to pain anyway, foot scald can cause lameness, and severely affected animals refuse to stand. This affects most facets of their lives; they don't want to eat, and they don't want to breed. While we have read that animals can recover spontaneously if moved to dry pasture, our goats haven't read this and absolutely refuse to get well before they are medicated.

Foot rot, also known as necrotic pododermatitis, is also caused by a bacteria. University of Missouri researchers believe foot rot is caused by two bacterias, Fusobacterium necrophorum and Bacteroides melaninogenicus, but staphylococci, streptococci, corynebacterium, or fungus may also cause the infection. While foot rot is prevalent with wet conditions, it also appears during times of drought. Foot rot is indicated by swelling, redness of the tissue above the hoof, and a distinctive odor. Often the walls of the hooves will separate with the space becoming filled with dirt and grime. The goat will normally have a low-grade temperature.

To prevent foot scald and foot rot the experts recommend keeping the hooves trimmed. That sounds good in theory, but we've experienced both foot scald and foot rot on goats with very well manicured hooves as well as babies with almost no hoof at all. Another way of preventing foot scald and foot rot is to have excellent drainage in areas the goats frequent such as around their watering system or entrances to the barn. Again, this sounds good in theory, but often our conditions do not lend themselves to perfect drainage. Some people recommend foot baths of copper sulfate and water, zinc sulfate, or formalin the goats have to walk through daily; our situation does not lend itself to this preventative method. Probably the most practical way to prevent foot rot is through good nutrition – making sure the goats get calcium, vitamin A, and phosphorus in their diets.

There is currently a cattle vaccine on the market for foot rot. Our vet said he could not, at this time, recommend using Volar. He has two cattle farmers who are experimenting with the vaccine, but they are having mixed results.

How to treat foot scald and/or foot rot? Well, it seems everyone has their own remedy; and we've probably tried them all at one time or another. Some people recommend a foot bath using 10% zinc sulphate while others recommend a foot bath using a Clorox/water solution (we use 50% water and 50% Clorox). Cut-Heal Hoof N Heal, Old Hickory All Stock spray as well as Dr. Nalor's Hoof N Heal brush-on often offer relief. Koppertox is also fairly effective but is not approved by the USDA for use on meat animals. Some vets recommend treatment of penicillin or oxytetracyclines. Others recommend using a feed additive containing chlortetracycline and sulfamethazine – especially if you are treating the whole herd. Terramycin injectable used in conjunction with a sulfa bolus is yet another method of treating foot problems.

What we found to be the most effective treatment, though, is LA 200 – not given as a shot but applied topically to the infection. This year we tried an experiment treating half of the goats with feet problems with a LA 200 shot and the other half by simply squirting the LA 200 on the sore. The ones with the shots showed no signs of improvement even after 3 days while the ones we put the medicine directly on the sore were no longer limping after 24 hours.

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Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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