A controlled field trial, reported at the 1999 American Dairy Science Association meeting, shows that feeding 20 milligrams of biotin per day to lactating dairy cows can cut the incidence of sole hemorrhages and increase milk production.

Twenty-four percent of the cows receiving 20 mg of biotin per day were diagnosed with sole hemorrhages, compared to a 50 percent incidence among non-supplemented cows. The research also showed a trend for less hoof wall ridging - a 43 percent occurrence in unsupplemented cows and 24 percent in cows receiving biotin. The 150-cow Washington herd also was monitored for double soles, horizontal ridges and heel horn erosions, but no significant differences were noted between groups.

Additionally, the biotin-fed cows produced 1,931 more pounds than unsupplemented animals. According to Will Seymour, nutritionist with Roche Vitamins, many vitamin pre-mixes may contain inadequate amounts of biotin. "For a long time, it was thought that cattle did not need supplemental B vitamins, such as biotin." However, studies have shown that supplemental biotin plays a role in improving hoof health, especially in high-producing cows and those cows fed high-grain diets. Heifers should be fed 10 milligrams per day of biotin, Seymour says.

Seymour notes that biotin supplementation is only one tool in preventing hoof problems and not a cure-all for hoof-related problems.