Case study: What can we do about Mortellaro?

Case study: What can we do about Mortellaro?

Trainer Luuk Reissenweber has a case study for us on Mortellaro. It starts with a statement he has on account of our blog about rubber floors.

"I want to give a reaction after your post about rubber matts. Last week I visited a farm where they've had a rubber floor for five years. The hoof trimmer was there as well and the situation was concerning: 9 out of 10 cows had Mortellaro and even worse: the claws looked like they hadn't been trimmed for over a year. After asking, it turned out it had been done only four months ago. I think the main cause is the rubber floor: too wet, not enough grinding and a too fertile soil for Mortellaro virus".

Case study:
Another farm I visited also has problems with Mortellaro. This is the farm on the photo. The question is: what can we do about too much Mortellaro? How can we prevent it?

Who has an answer to this question? Please share your thoughts!

Comments (5)

Halbe Rosema

Hai Luuk,
First of all I want to say that your farmers are not the only who have problems whit Digitil Dermatites, so called Mortellaro. It is one of biggest problems in clawhealth. Mortellaro is not causted by a virus but by at least two differend bateria. Bacteria like a wet environment with a high humidity. If jou look at the picture you se that the floor is clean but wet. There are even puddles, because there no slope. The space around the watertrough is wet and filthy. How about the ventilation of the barn? The cubicles seem alright to me but you can see thatthe right row is dirtier than the left row, maybe because of the neckrail.
So, prevention of Mortellaro begins with a clean and dry barn and cows that are in a good condition.
Treatment of Mortellaro is not so easy. A hoofbath every two weeks is just a beginning. A hootbath after a session of hooftrimming is even more effective. You told that there had be done a hooftrimming just four months ago, but it seemed to be more than a year ago. That means that the hooftrimmer did not do his work alright.
I have several clients who have a rubber floor. I don't think that cows walking on rubber need more hoooftrimming. There will be balance between horn grow and wear. Mortellaro has nothing to do with the rubberfloor if it is cleaned often. Four times a day is for me a minimum.


Great topic guys and valuable observations!
As we all know, lameness is a multifactorial challenge. Could be rubber, could be trimmer, could be anything else as well or a combination of a few.
One point I would like to elaborate on a little is the footbath method being used as a treatment bath. Lets treat ALL the lame cows first ASAP by individual care (=in a hoof trimming chute) and there after maintain it with a footbath or spraying method. Compared to mastitis: we teat dip after each milking to PREVENT mastitis. Once she got mastitis, we switch to individual TREATMENT mode and stay on it until she is the meantime continuing to teat dip the rest of the girls.
The key is to get the cow in the chute ASAP to diagnose the hoof problem, treat her by wrapping, blocking, regular trimming etc. (what ever it takes for the proper treatment of infectious and non-infectious hoof problems).
Luuk, there is a way to get ultimate control! It only takes place once all aspects of the hoof care management (individual care and preventive bathing/spraying) are being implemented.
Good Luck!

Luuk Reissenweber

Hello Halbe and Koos,
Interesting comments. I find that over the years Mortellaro is getting more and more contagious as well as aggressive. I sometimes see Mortellaro now above the small secondaire claws, up on the cows legs. Saying all this, yes a clean barn is number one priority to prevent outbreaks and a good foot bath procedure is second. For the barn on the photo, we are considering taking the concrete floor of the stalls out and go with deep beds. We did this on one of my other farms and the results are very satisfying. Here we use sawdust mixed with lime, some straw and some water. Claws were clean and dry after one week and Mortellaro will for sure be less of a problem. Add to this that the cows are lying down way more, it is a win-win situation. In the barn on the photo, indeed there are some issues, we are working on improvement. For the growth of th claws, is a rubber floor in wet circumstances not causing to less wear and tear so that it seems that the claws are growing way faster? The hooftrimmer is very professional and I did not see him making mistakes, for instance cutting too deep etc..
Thanks for your comments, have a nice day, Luuk


Hi Luuk
I like this post as it is a current issue worldwide. Many countries want to say that they are still free of the disorder. Probably they do not look for it. When they start it will be too late.
Regarding the trimming. Cows claw grows approximately 0.5 cm every month. The claw should be grown in 4 months approximately 2 cm. Provided no wear, this is a substantial growth. However, I have not seen a dairy system where the wear is completely avoided.
Regarding rubber floors and wear. Even the softest rubber should result in some wear.
Prevention of digital dermatitis is an issue worldwide. The bio-containment (stop the spread on the property) relies on a vigilance (early detection and treatment), strict hygiene, dryness and cow comfort are required for a success. The regular foot-bathing is laso important, although the efficacy of many common products used in the foot-baths is questionable). On top of this is the bio-exclusion (prevention of entry on the enterprise). People often say that this is not an issue. However, micromolecular work has shown differences in the strains. Therefore, patients on one enterprise may have no prior exposure to newly introduced strains by purchased cattle. Farmers who do show cattle are even at a greater risk due to mingling at the shows. When the patient of interest is returned to the farm the normal farmers' attitude is to go back with the other cattle immediately ('it came from there anyway'). This is a huge risk of introduction of new strains and new outbreaks.
I am not sure of the biosecurity on the farms you have mentioned. The issue of bio-containment is to be solved.

Anouk Brinkhoff

Everyone thanks a lot for the great and elaborate responses! And thanks to Luuk for introducing the case, very helpful!

Don't think we need to add anymore to your expertises, but just some points on prevention here:
1. Better drainage of urine is important!!!
2. Every hour scraping.
3. Better ventilation, also in winter.
4. Deep bedded beds, cows will rest more and will be less in the shit. 5. Scraping of crossovers (find the weak spot!).

Good luck everyone!

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