The proper use of a copper footbath can be an effective component of a herd’s hoof health program. Digital dermatitis (also referred to as hairy heel warts, heel warts, etc.) and hoof rot are two hoof problems that can be controlled by the consistent use of footbaths.
Copper sulfate’s antibacterial properties help keep the hoof clean, and it also has a hardening effect on the claw horn. The popularity of copper sulfate footbaths can be attributed to both its perceived relatively low cost per cow pass and common assessment among farmers it effectively controls infectious lesions. Research has shown that using these types of footbaths decreases both the incidence and severity of hoof lesions.
Unfortunately, the price of copper is known for volatile price swings. On March 23, 2020, the cost per pound was $2.10 whereas March 23, 2021 the closing price was $4.12. (Source: NASDAQ Commodity Price). Based on when you and/or your dealer purchased copper sulfate and how much was purchased your bill may or may not have changed much yet. When the re-order comes due, the wallet may feel a bit tighter.
With those price swings, it is understandable for farmers to start looking for alternatives to dry copper. The two main alternatives:
HEALMAX® Footbath Concentrate is a biodegradable footbath additive that maintains the control of digital dermatitis better than any other non-formaldehyde product. It is effective year-round and does not lose its efficacy when the temperatures drop. When paired with a Footbath Dosing System, the cost per cow pass is comparable or even lower than that of formaldehyde.
For operations that prefer copper, a booster may be the way to go. The purpose of these boosters is to keep copper in suspension so they can do their job. Using a product such as HOOFMAX® can cut you usage up to 80%. HOOFMAX® binds to hydroxide ions found in manure and urine, preventing them from neutralizing copper ions, thus making more copper available for killing pathogens. This allows you to achieve roughly 400 cow passes before having to change out the copper footbath compared to 150 cow passes with just copper by itself.