Bovine digital dermatitis (DD) is a painful, infectious claw disorder that causes ulcerative lesions mainly at the coronary band of the hind legs of dairy cows and lameness. DD is not only a serious issue in terms of animal welfare, but also has significant economic consequences due to milk loss, decreased fertility and treatment costs. Prevalence of DD in the Netherlands is estimated to be 20% to 30%.
DD was first described in 1974, in Italy. Common bacteria associated with DD are multiple phylotypes from the genus Treponema, of which T. medium/T. vincentii-like, T. phagedenis-like, and T. pedis are most representative. Lesions can be classified using the M-scoring system, developed by Döpfer et al. Evaluation of lesions by lifting the cow’s feet for visual inspection is the most accurate DD identification system but is expensive, time consuming, labor-intensive, and stressful for cattle. Regular claw trimming and inspection of feet in the West-European countries is mostly performed twice a year. In the meantime, it is useful for dairy farmers to obtain information about the prevalence of Treponema spp. in the herd. Current laboratory tests for DD diagnostics in individual cows are based on histology, cultivation, PCR techniques and also ELISA for antibody detection. The advantage of the use of ELISA in milk is the availability of samples and the limited costs.
The objective of our recent study was to develop, validate and implement a Treponema antibody ELISA in bulk milk to monitor and assess DD prevalence at the herd level.
Results of the study