Footbaths are often viewed as the easy answer to all problems in the feet of cattle. However it is only effective in the case of infections and only then when used correctly.
A good footbath is at least 3 metres in length, 15 cm deep and 80 cm wide. The animal should not be able to avoid going through and each foot should be immersed twice. The liquid should come up to the level of the dewclaws. To prevent slipping an abrasive footing is recommended but one which spreads the claws is unsuitable as it closes the interdigital cleft and prevents the liquid reaching this area.
Below is an illustration of a new type of footbath which consists of 2 individual baths with a connecting grid. Muck collects on this grid which helps to keep the bath cleaner.
For reasons of hygiene a maximum of 150 walks through is recommended. The best site for the footbath is on return from the parlour. A mobile footbath is easier to keep clean and can be used for young stock and dry cows. Cleaning the feet by hosing off or by using 2 footbaths in tandem with the pre-bath containing just water is ideal. 30 minutes on a dry clean surface afterwards is a necessity.
Many commercial footbath solutions are based on formalin and or copper-zinc sulphate. Formalin is most effective at a temperature of 12C and diluted to 3-5%. Too strong a solution and too long a stay in the footbath may cause serious skin irritations.