Hoof Health and Nutrition


Source: Manitoba Agriculture Food, and Rural Initiatives

Many factors affect the health of your cows feet. Management factors such as providing a well drained environment, adequate size stalls, foot baths, annual foot trimming and following recommendations for flooring materials can help reduce feet problems. Some progress can be made through genetic selection but heritability is very low. Nutrition also plays a role in prevention of foot problems. Consider the following:

  1. Laminitis, or founder, is one of the primary causes of feet problems. Rations too high in energy and too low in fibre, appear to be the primary cause of laminitis. Consumption of high levels of grain results in rumen acidosis and the release of endotoxins. These endotoxins damage the blood vessels in the foot and scar tissue starts to form in the claw.To prevent laminitis:
    • Keep the grain portion of the diet at less than 60% of total dry matter intake.
    • Don’t feed more than 6 pounds of grain in one feeding.
    • If you’re not feeding a TMR, be sure to feed forage before grain.
    • Consider using buffers to limit the acid level in the rumen.
  2. Sulphur levels should be at 0.2% of diet dry matter. Sulphur is a necessary component of methionine, an important amino acid needed by the horn producing cells.
  3. Zinc levels should be at least 40-50 mg/kg of diet dry matter. Zinc is an integral part of many enzyme systems responsible for maintaining foot health.
  4. Copper levels should be at least 15 mg/kg of diet dry matter. It may be necessary to feed higher levels if molybdenum levels are high (greater than 3 mg/kg). Copper is an important part of collagen, the protein which forms the connective tissue in the foot.