Foot spray against digital dermatitis

Last changed: 05 December 2023

Disinfecting with environmental-friendly hypochlorous acid as alternative to traditional foot bath with polluting copper sulphate or antibiotics

Projectmanager: Christer Bergsten, Department of Biosystems and Technology, SLU.

The purpose of the experiment is to study an alternative method with foot wash and an alternative disinfectant that does not burden the environment to prevent and treat digital dermatitis and secondary claw diseases and lameness. The method is to spray the claws with a hypochlorous acid when the animals are milked in the milking robot. The hypochlorous acid is produced from water by addition of sodium chloride through an electric hydrolysis under constant pH 6.5. The solution is disinfecting after which it returns to water and sodium chloride.

  • At the start of the trial all animals are trimmed and claw diseases are identified and recorded for each foot.
  • The development of claw diseases is then followed up by 4-month intervals.

The result is assessed as the number of new and recovered cases under current observation period and compared between treated and untreated cows. The results are corrected for parity, days in milk, breed, and herd.


Digital Dermatitis (DD) is a contagious claw disease, which secondary cause other claw diseases as heel horn erosion, interdigital hyperplasia, warts and lameness. Lameness is the most common cause of poor animal health, poor durability and large economic losses. Claw diseases and lameness is increasing in pace with the transition from tied to loose housed cows because of the infectious pressure increases and the feet are becoming more exposed to poor hygiene and trauma.

Primary prevention of these disorders and lameness, is biosecurity, good stall hygiene and proper management. Footbath with 8% copper sulphate solution currently recommended, has in Swedish trials been shown to reduce the risk for DD ten times compared to a water bath. However, copper is a pollutant covered by the European biocides directive.