Hairy foot warts

September 20th, 2009

To combat hairy foot warts, otherwise known as papillomatous digital dermatitis (PDD) the dairy industry is using chemical solutions such as copper sulfate and formalin in foot baths for cattle and then dumping the residual chemicals directly into the environment without any regulation, raising unknown environmental and health risks.

Hairy foot wart is a condition plaguing the dairy industry throughout the United States. Extremely contagious and expensive to treat, hairy foot wart has major implications on the dairy industry causing a reduction of milk production ranging from 20 to 50% (Brown, Kilgo et al., 2000). The most effective treatment for the disease is through the use of topical antibiotics; however this is not practical or economical due to the large scale of most dairy farms.  Instead, formalin and copper sulfate footbaths now serve as the most common treatments for the disease on dairy farms in Vermont and New York.  Currently, there are no recommended disposal methods for the chemicals after they have been used.  The baths are dumped out without regard to environmental, human, or animal safety.   While studies have been conducted on the acute effects of these chemicals in a controlled environment, little is known about the potential long term chronic effects of dumping formalin and copper sulfate waste into the environment.  Due to the harmful effects of acute exposure, the potential exists that the dumping of this chemical waste has serious negative environmental effects.

heel warts

Replacing copper sulfate or formalin with Electrolyzed Water in the usual foot baths proved to be at least as effective as these chemicals. However, the main problem with footbaths is the fact that these foot baths get polluted quickly with organic matter which reduces the effect of Electrolyzed Water, copper sulfate or formalin. After about 100 cows, traditional foot baths are so polluted with organic matter that the use of foot baths becomes counter productive. Research proved that using foot baths that are constantly filled with fresh Electrolyzed Water and whereas the polluted water is drained, is a much more effective method to replace these chemicals and treat hairy foot warts. Dosing 0.5 liter Electrolyzed Water per cow keeps footbaths effective regardless the number of cows walking through these foot baths.

Having said so, by far the most effective method proved to be spraying. Spraying the hoofs of the cows, in particularly prior to milking gives sufficient contact time for the Electrolyzed Water with the hoofs. The run-off (Electrolyzed) Water helps to disinfect the milking parlor. Spraying the hoofs with Electrolyzed Water prior to milking in the milking parlor cures and prevents all hairy foot warts. Foot warts heal within 2-4 weeks without using any copper sulfate or formalin.

Replacing copper sulfate or formalin with Electrolyzed Water (pH6.8, ORP800+mV at 300+ppm) is a major improvement. Not only is Electrolyzed Water save to use, it is much cheaper and Electrolyzed Water has not a single negative environmental effect. The run off (Electrolyzed) Water is biodegradable and poses no threat.

Above findings were obtained from field trials on several dairy farms in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. For more information, visit

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