Winter for most of Canada is a challenging time to keep a routine footbath regime. The three main challenges that producers face is hard walking or slippery surfaces, slushy or iced-over footbath solution (if not completely frozen), and inactivation of footbath chemicals.

Q: Do we really need footbaths during the winter?
A: Studies say, "Yes, we do".

winter footbaths, claw horn lesions, infectious lesions, dairy cow health, trouw nutrition canada, dairy cow hoof care, best practices


It is cold and we know that bacteria like, other than moisture, warm temperatures to grow and multiply - so are they necessary? In 2003 Dr. Nigel Cook, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison,decided to answer this question. He studied10 farms in Wisconsin (six free-stall and four tie-stall) throughout a 12 month period. The results are in graph 1.

Dr. Cook concluded that: “cold weather during the late winter may lead to manure handling problems in the alleys and reduced frequency of foot-bathing, triggering an elevation in the rate of new PDD (papillomatous digital dermatitis) infections.” This study answers the question above, at least for digital dermatitis (hair heel warts).




So what can be done during winter to help keep infectious hoof lesions in check? Although there’s very little research in this area, Jim Edwards, Technical Specialist for Hoof-Zink Company, and Roger Olson, Dairy Specialist with Zinpro Minerals, provide the following recommendations:

  1. Spread salt on concrete surfaces near the bath to prevent freezing and creating a skating rink.
  2. Mix treatment products with warm water. This is often a common practice to improve solubility of dry footbath treatment products, like copper sulfate for example. This practice can also deter the bath from freezing and warm cement surfaces in contact with the bath.
  3. Store treatment products in a heated place. The freezing point of different liquid treatment concentrates varies greatly. Also, formaldehyde loses efficacy at cold temperatures, so store inside at temperatures > 7°C (45°F).
  4. Use a higher step-in/step-out height (8 to 10 inches, 20-25 cm) bath design to avoid splashing solution outside of the bath.
  5. Implement hydrated lime and copper sulfate dry footbaths in extreme cold weather. This approach helps avoid freezing in the bath and surrounding concrete. However, it also requires more management because excess urine creates a paste that freezes and prevents the hoof coating of the hydrated lime and copper sulfate powder.
  6. Scrape alleys more frequently to avoid irregular, rigid walking surfaces (frozen manure). Clean walkways provide better footing and minimize cracks of the hoof claw.
  7. Install floor heating in the area just before, under and after the footbath to keep the area from freezing. Consider placing insulation just under the concrete, followed by electric floor heat pads or heat lines in the concrete.
  8. Ensure footbath design includes the ability for cows to bypass the footbath; that way when the footbath solution is frozen during cold temperatures, cows are not exposed to it.

Don’t forget that cow comfort is fundamental to promote lying time when cows are off their feed so that hooves are no longer in contact with cement or manure. In terms of nutrition, some tools that you could look at utilizing are trace minerals like organic copper and zinc, and also additives like Selko® Vivalto®, which includes Biotin, a B-vitamin known to help improve hoof health.

If you would like more information regarding Shur-Gain/Trouw Nutrition Canada, our products and feeding programs, please contact your Dairy Nutrition Advisor or nearest Shur-Gain dealer. We would be happy to discuss options with you.