The reliability of detecting digital dermatitis in the milking parlour

By Leach, K. A. and Main, D. C. J. and Stokes, J. E. and Whay, H. R., The Veterinary Journal, 2012
Digital dermatitis (DD) is currently the most problematic infectious skin disease in dairy cattle associated with lameness. Reducing the disease prevalence through early detection and treatment is an essential management tool. The traditional detection method involves lifting and inspecting the feet in a cattle crush, but this is a time intensive and costly practice and impractical for regular detection of individual cases or monitoring herd prevalence. This study aimed to establish the accuracy of detecting and classifying DD lesions in traditional (pit) milking parlours compared with a borescope, and a gold standard lifted foot inspection. With the exception of one lesion, parlour screening was as accurate as the lifted foot inspection in determining the presence of 86 DD lesions on 160 hind feet (99% agreement; κ 0.99; sensitivity 1.00; specificity 0.99). Describing lesions by colour, depth or stage of lesion in the parlour or using the borescope reached substantial agreement with the gold standard. The stage of lesion was closely linked to colour and depth descriptors. There was greater agreement when categorising more advanced stages of disease progression. Borescope and parlour inspections led to both over and under recording of actual size, particularly in smaller lesions. Screening cows in traditional milking parlours for the presence of DD was found to be an accurate and practical means of detecting lesions. This method should be considered for on farm use to evaluate DD prevention and treatment strategies.
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