Research has shown using a once-weekly bedding conditioner treatment in dairy housing can reduce disease challenges and cut cases of digital dermatitis in dairy cows.
An on-farm trial in France using bedding conditioner Cobiotex – available in the UK from EnviroSystems and manufactured by Dietaxion – resulted in a significant reduction in both the number of cases and severity of digital dermatitis (DD) by 35% and 77%, respectively.
The trial included 120 Holstein cows housed for part of the year in cubicles, treated with 200-250g of Cobiotex per cow per week in each cubicle for 12 months.
Cobiotex is a multi-strain bacterial additive that forms protective biofilms across animal bedding and cubicle surfaces. The biofilms work by outcompeting the growth of pathogenic bacteria, including those linked to mastitis (E coli, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus) and digital dermatitis (Treponema, Dicholeobacter), which reduces the risk of disease spread.
At the start of the one-year trial, the farm had 36 cases of digital dermatitis per 100 cows, significantly higher than the typical average of around 21 cases/100 cows (AHDB 2021). However, by the end of the trial, the number of active cases of digital dermatitis had dropped from 36 to 24 cases per 100 cows, a significant improvement.
In addition, cases of digital dermatitis following the application of Cobiotex were more confined to less severe lesions (M1, M3, M4 stages) when scored using the M scoring system for digital dermatitis adopted by the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR).
The proportion of cows in the painful M2 stages associated with severe lameness at the start and end of the trial reduced from 29 cases per 100 cows to 7, respectively.
Digital dermatitis is a highly contagious infection, usually affecting the skin on the bulbs of the heel and between the digits. It is widespread on UK farms and present in about 70% of herds, with the disease more prevalent in housed herds. Contact with slurry is essential for the development of the condition.
NADIS estimates the cost per case at between £75 to £81.49, making the annual cost per average farm roughly £3,000 per 100 cows.
Liz Russell, managing director of EnviroSystems, said: “The results back up what we are seeing on farms here in the UK. Not only do farmers see health benefits in their cows, but the biologically-controlled bedding environment created when using the conditioner means that potentially ‘irritating’ bedding additives, such as lime, can be cut, and mastitis/digital dermatitis treatments or antibiotic use are also reduced.
“By using Cobiotex, bedding is not only kept dryer thanks to the filler agent helping prevent the spread and transmission of digital dermatitis, but the biofilm created by the bacteria in the product helps outcompete any Treponemes- the bacteria causing digital dermatitis.
“Using the product also means less bedding is needed, and farmers also report significant labour-saving, as the product only needs to be applied once a week, compared to lime, which is applied daily.”
The farmer involved in the trial explained how the product had drastically cut lameness rates and antibiotics in his 120-cow herd.
He said: “Before using Cobiotex, there were always 40 to 50 cows laming in the herd. Today, after using the product for 2 years, there’s only 4-5 cows still lame, and I haven’t used oxytetracycline for more than a year.”