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Clean feet prevent disease

An automatic hoof washer developed in a close partnership between a private production company and scientists at Aarhus University has been patented and put into production. Next step is to start an export adventure.

2012.10.03 | Janne Hansen

By keeping cows' feet clean it is possible to reduce the frequency of digital dermatitis significantly. Photo: Aqua-Cleaner

The concept “from research to invoice” is being followed to the letter by scientists at Aarhus University and their commercial partners. One of the latest examples is the development and production of an automatic hoof washer for cows.


The development has been facilitated by a close collaboration between scientists at Aarhus University and the manufacturing company Aqua-Cleaner with input from cattle organisations. The hoof washer has been on the Danish market for a couple of years, and the company is now upscaling its production with a view to exporting to the European market.


Research results from Aarhus University do not only form the premise for the production of a new and patented piece of machinery – farmers and their cows also benefit from the results. Cow health is significantly improved, with consequential benefits for production and welfare. For the farmer, the machine means savings in labour and costs.


Three seconds is all it takes

The principle behind the hoof washer is quite simple – to keep the serious and painful bacterial infection digital dermatitis at bay by keeping cow hooves clean. This is done in an uncomplicated and sustainable way involving no additional work for the farmer, no chemicals apart from normal soap, no antibiotics and no bottlenecks hindering normal cow traffic inside the barn.


The cows walk through the hoof washer when they return from the milking parlour. The hoof washer has four nozzles that spray clean water – to which soap can be added – onto the hooves of the cows. A sensor keeps an eye on where the cow is so that the nozzles can direct the water correctly during the approximately three seconds it takes a cow to walk through the hoof washer.


See the hoof washer in action on the Aqua-Cleaner webpage here.


Quick payback period

Digital dermatitis is a common problem in modern dairy production.


- Roughly 25 per cent of Danish dairy cows suffer from digital dermatitis. Our experiments show that the odds of having digital dermatitis are 48 per cent higher if hooves are not washed, says senior scientist Peter T. Thomsen from Aarhus University.


Less digital dermatitis means better animal welfare and also leads to significant savings for the farmer since each lactation affected by digital dermatitis costs the farmer an estimated 1500 DKK.


- In an average dairy herd, the hoof washer will have paid for itself within 18 months to three years, says Tom Pedersen from Aqua-Cleaner.


The project received Innovation funds from the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and was carried out in cooperation with Aqua-Cleaner, the Danish Cattle Federation, DeLaval and the Danish Cattle Research Centre.


Further information: Senior scientist Peter T. Thomsen, Department of Animal Science, telephone: +45 8715 7834, e-mail: petert.thomsen@agrsci.dk


Research, Public / media, Agriculture and food, Cattle