Disinfection of foot trimming hoof knives to reduce transmission of digital dermatitis

Bacteria known as 'Treponema' is the most common cause of bovine digital dermatitis (BDD). Researchers from the University of Liverpool established that this bacteria could be transmitted on hoof trimming knives. This has led to industry-wide adoption of an evidence-based disinfection protocol.

Our research

During initial surveys of bovine digital dermatitis (BDD) treponeme infection reservoirs we struggled to find substantial evidence of infection reservoirs other than infected feet (1) whilst implicating some contribution of the ruminant gastrointestinal tract (1,2). Subsequently, akin to the human treponematoses yaws, which is considered transmitted by touch, we were able to demonstrate that foot trimming equipment which can quickly be moved from cattle hoof to hoof without disinfection are frequently contaminated with digital dermatitis treponemes (3).

Subsequently, using the treponemal culture and diagnostic methods we had previously developed (4), we showed that DD treponemes could be transmitted on hoof trimming knives and gloves (5, 6). We subsequently used both in vitro and field-based studies to assess disinfectant efficacy (6, 7).

Research with impact

Our research has led to the creation of an industry published evidenced based disinfection protocol to prevent the transmission of disease between and within farms (8). This protocol has now been adopted by both national (UK) and international dairy professional/vets and farmers (9) as well as having led to a better awareness of hygiene practices during foot trimming (9).

Research outputs

  1. Evans, N. J., Timofte, D., Isherwood, D. R., Brown, J. M., Williams, J. M., Sherlock, K., Carter, S. D. (2012). Host and environmental reservoirs of infection for bovine digital dermatitis treponemes. Veterinary Microbiology, 156(1-2), 102-109. DOI: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2011.09.029
  2. Sullivan, L. E., Carter, S. D., Duncan, J. S., Grove-White, D. H., Angell, J. W., & Evans, N. J. (2015). The Gastrointestinal Tract as a Potential Infection Reservoir of Digital Dermatitis-Associated Treponemes in Beef Cattle and Sheep. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81(21), 7460-7469. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01956-15
  3. Sullivan, L. E., Blowey, R. W., Carter, S. D., Duncan, J. S., Grove-White, D. H., Page, P., . . . Evans, N. J. (2014). Presence of digital dermatitis treponemes on cattle and sheep hoof trimming equipment. VETERINARY RECORD, 175(8), 201-+. DOI: 10.1136/vr.102269
  4. Evans, N. J., Brown, J. M., Demirkan, I., Singh, P., Getty, B., Timofte, D., . . . Carter, S. D. (2009). Association of Unique, Isolated Treponemes with Bovine Digital Dermatitis Lesions. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 47(3), 689-696. DOI: 10.1128/JCM.01914-08
  5. Angell, J. W., Clegg, S. R., Grove-White, D. H., Blowey, R. W., Carter, S. D., Duncan, J. S., & Evans, N. J. (2017). Survival of contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD)-associated treponemes on disposable gloves after handling CODD-affected feet. VETERINARY RECORD, 181(4), 89. DOI: 10.1136/vr.104228
  6. Gillespie, A., Carter, S. D., Blowey, R. W., & Evans, N. (2020). Survival of bovine digital dermatitis treponemes on hoof knife blades and the effects of various disinfectants. The Veterinary Record, 186(2). DOI: 10.1136/vr.105406
  7. Gillespie, A. V., Carter, S. D., Blowey, R. W., Staton, G. J., & Evans, N. J. (2020). Removal of bovine digital dermatitis-associated treponemes from hoof knives after foot-trimming: a disinfection field study. BMC VETERINARY RESEARCH, 16(1). DOI: 10.1186/s12917-020-02552-8
  8. https://ahdb.org.uk/knowledge-library/cattle-foot-trimming-equipment-disinfection
  9. Gillespie, A. V., Carter, S. D., Blowey, R. W., Staton, G. J., Walsh, T. R., & Evans, N. J. (2021). Measuring the impact of bovine digital dermatitis research on knowledge and practice of biosecurity during cattle foot-trimming. JOURNAL OF DAIRY RESEARCH, 88(1), 60-63. DOI: 10.1017/S0022029921000170


BBSRC DTP CASE Studentship with AHDB Dairy: Preventing transmission of bovine digital dermatitis. Supervisors: N. Evans & S. Carter, Student: Amy Gillespie.

BBSRC RM Grant: Dissecting the molecular diversity and commonality of the bovine digital dermatitis treponemes.  New Investigator Award:  N. Evans (PI).

BBSRC RM Grant IPA with AHDB Beef and Lamb and HCC: Unravelling the aetiology of contagious ovine digital dermatitis. N. Evans, J. Duncan, D. Grove-White & S. Carter.

AHDB Dairy/DairyCo Funded Studentship: Identifying how digital dermatitis is transmitted between dairy cows. Supervisors: N. Evans (Lead), R. Murray & S. Carter, Student: Jennifer Bell.

AHDB Beef and Lamb/HCC/QMS Funded Studentship: Identifying digital dermatitis infection reservoirs in beef cattle and sheep. Supervisors: N. Evans (Lead), J. Duncan, D. Grove-White & S. Carter, Student: Leigh Sullivan.

Back to: Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences