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CountryDoc, Veterinarian
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
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Experience:  Experienced mixed animal veterinarian
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cows: herd..which developed swelling in their lower legs..grain

Resolved Question:

We have a herd of cows (250) 5 of which developed swelling in their lower legs which we assumed was associated with high rates of grain feeding. The feed is now fully buffered but we now have about 10 cows affected and it appears more like an infection. Any ideas?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Expert:  CountryDoc replied 7 years ago.

Welcome to JustAnswer this is Dr. Christie.


Is the swelling from the knee/hock down or is the swelling even further down (ankle to top of hoof)?


Any visible lameness/limping in any of the cows?


Do the cows have access to outside pasture and grazing?


Are you able to look at any of the hooves or legs up close?


Are the cows affected eating and drinking normally?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Swelling is just above hoof. Not hot to touch. Patches of swelling eventually has erupted with infection which is sprayed with teat spray.

Cow mobility seems good. No arched backs.

Pasture is limited at present. They are also on a feedpad with hay, grain, canolameal etc. Grain mix in the dairy and some pasture.

Hooves appear OK, not curved or rippled in appearance. Legs not affected and normal.

Only 1 cow was off her feed about 2 weeks ago and we introduced virginiamycin into the grain mix believing we had acidosis/sub-clinical acidosis. Could this be an aftereffect of acidosis or a vitamin deficiency from lack of fresh green feed?

Expert:  CountryDoc replied 7 years ago.

Thank you for the information. There are three things that come to mind with the history you detail.


1) Foot rot. Foot rot starts in the interdigital space and then can work its way north on the leg! Many times we see clinical cases with swelling of the hoofline and fetlock. They can erupt into infection, etc. Check in between the claws in the interdigital space to see if it may be underlying footrot. Stick your finger in there and feel the tissues (are they cracked, red, and raw). Is there a foul smell? Pain? That being said, if you have foot rot baths, make sure they have been mixed properly! I have seen a few instances where it was mixed wrong and led to a too strong mixture, causing irritation, infection, and swelling. Here is an article concerning foot rot as well as foot bath mixtures and treatment, etc:


2) Digital dermatitis (Hairy heel warts). This only affects the skin and typically is the hoofline and up. usually does not affect the interdigital space. This is usually controlled with an oxytetracycline spray. Here is picture of hairy heal warts: grefurl=


3) Endophyte infected fescue pasture leading to fescue toxicity. This causes a decrease in blood circulation, especially in the extremities. It results in swelling that can erupt into infection and then eventually heals itself. I would take a walk around the pasture and look for any fescue in the pasture that they could be getting into.


Typically is a cow gets acidotic, they can have laminitis in their hooves. I have never seen a case get to the point where there is swelling and the swelling erupts into infection. Acidosis would be seen with dropped milk production, decreased feed intake, diarrhea, displaced abomasums, lameness. Make sure there is enough fiber in the diet and that the roughage is of good quality and has enough length on it (adequate stem). Be careful of the amount of carbs and concentrate available. I don't think this is a nutrition issue, but rather one of the above.


If you still have more cattle coming up with this problem, then I recommend having your vet out to check out a couple of the cows.


Dr. Christie

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