Signs of spring usually conjure up images of warm weather and flowers. But spring’s wet and muddy conditions also conjure up a greater incidence of foot rot. Foot rot is an infectious disease caused by bacteria in the soil. The organisms establish themselves in the foot through a break in the skin. Wet pasture conditions and mud predispose cattle to foot rot because the tissue between the toes will be softer and more easily injured.

To avoid foot rot problems, pasture cattle on the densest sod in the spring. Fescue, bluegrass and reed canary have tight root systems that withstand moisture and livestock trampling. Splitting the herd into smaller groups and putting lighter weight animals in wetter pastures is also another way to reduce spring’s rotten conditions.

Once an injury occurs, bacteria move in and cause an infection that can travel to the foot and possibly the joints. Swelling and a characteristic foul odor are indicators of foot rot.

Every step an infected cow takes spreads the harmful bacteria into the soil. Early identification and treatment of infected cows can prevent problems from getting worse. To treat the foot, safely restrain or sedate the animal, as the tissue between the claws is extremely sensitive. Wash the contamination off the foot and between the claws. Use clean bailing twine and floss firmly between the claws. You must get down to the healthy tissue to be successful. Once the dead tissue is removed, apply copper sulfate to the foot and give a long-acting antibiotic. Then, isolate affected cattle from the herd.