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Digital dermatitis: tackling an emerging problem
  1. Niamh O'Connell, BAgrSc, MSc, PhD
  1. Institute for Global Food Security, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland Technology Centre, Cloreen Park, Malone Road, Belfast BT9 5HN, UK
  1. e-mail: niamh.oconnell{at}

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THE research by Sullivan and colleagues (2013) summarised on p 582 of this issue of Veterinary Record marks an important step in bovine lameness research. There is anecdotal evidence that digital dermatitis is an increasing problem in commercial beef production; however, there is a dearth of peer-reviewed literature in this area. Of most immediate importance is the need to gain a greater understanding of the scale of the issue. Research previously conducted in abattoirs in the USA suggests a prevalence of 4 per cent in beef cattle (Brown and others 2000). Sullivan and colleagues (2013) report that 21 per cent of animals on one beef farm, and 0.5 per cent of animals on a second, larger, farm were treated annually for digital dermatitis. These figures support anecdotal reports of significant between-farm variation in levels of the condition. National or international (perhaps abattoir-based) surveys of beef cattle would clearly yield important information on the actual scale of this problem. This approach could also possibly provide statistics on the types of lesions most commonly found, and perhaps even be expanded to investigate on-farm risk factors. The potential importance of this condition cannot be underestimated. It is clear that digital dermatitis is a major global problem in the dairy sector (Refaai and others 2013 …

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