Etiologies of toe lesions

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Geni Wren Toe lesions are an extremely common lesion in cattle. They reduce performance significantly and often become chronic lesions. Part of the reason for this is due to the fact that lesions occurring in the toe have the potential to involve the 3rd phalanx, explains cattle lameness expert Jan Shearer, DVM, MS, Iowa State University. “When this happens affected animals can develop very chronic and painful kinds of conditions,” Shearer says.

Shearer says that toe problems have multiple etiologies:

  • Toe ulcer/abscess which quickly becomes an abscess once you expose the underlying corium.
  • White line disease also occurs but not real frequently; more commonly it’s a thin sole toe ulcer. White line can be because someone is trimming away the inside part of the toe. It may be part of the iatrogenic problem.
  • Thin sole –thin sole toe ulcers
  • Corkscrew claw is a very important cause of toe abscesses in cattle and they become very chronic and are hard to manage.
  • Wall cracks (horizontal and vertical)
  • Traumatic toe lesions
  • Iatrogenic – often trimming-related

The causes of these lesions differ significantly, Shearer says. “I think the important thing is to understand the etiology of these lesions if we are going to be able to apply appropriate control measures for them.”

For more information on lameness identification and locomotion scoring, visit these resources for beef and dairy.



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