Thymox to fight hoof disease scourge with global treatment rollout

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Thymox foot bath products will be available in the US, UK, and Europe in early 2017 through its distribution agreement with Cargill.
Thymox foot bath products will be available in the US, UK, and Europe in early 2017 through its distribution agreement with Cargill.

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Dairy farmers can protect their cows and guard against production declines with a harmless hoof disease treatment coming to Europe and the US in 2017, says supplier Thymox.

Thymox Footbath and Thymox Hoofcare are botanically-based disinfecting hoof treatments that safely fight against damaging foot diseases which can affect 270 million dairy cows worldwide.

Foot health and lameness are major issues that dairy farmers face as hoof infections can lead to a slump in production and negatively impact the overall health of a cow herd. With Thymox foot bath products, dairy farmers can treat and heal hoof infections without causing further damage to the cow or environment, a first for the industry, Thymox CEO Frank Palantoni told DairyReporter.

The technology was first developed in Canada, where it was approved as a veterinary drug in April, Palantoni said.

The company most recently launched its foot bath products in China, and with a recent distribution agreement with Cargill, the company will roll out to the US, UK, and Europe in early 2017.

Thymol combats treponeme

Thymox foot bath contains a naturally-occurring antimicrobial molecule called thymol (found in the herb thyme and used in Listerine mouthwash) that safely disinfects cow hooves contaminated with harmful pathogens such as treponeme.

Treponeme is spirochete bacterium that has plagued warm-blooded hoof animals, particularly dairy cows, since it was first discovered in Italy in the 1970s, Palantoni said.

“It’s a pathogen, that’s cork-screw shaped, and it’s found in manure,”​ he continued. “As you can imagine, that on a dairy farm there are trillions and trillions of these pathogens everywhere.​”

“This pathogen, this microbe, gets into the hoof and creates these lesions anywhere from the size of a penny to a quarter. So you can imagine how painful that is to be standing on a lesion. And that’s called digital dermatitis.”

Preventing lameness in cow herds

In the past 10 years, digital dermatitis also known as strawberry foot disease or Mortellaro disease (named after the veterinarian who discovered it) has developed into a serious problem in several dairy regions in North America.  An estimated 270 million dairy cows worldwide are susceptible to digital dermatitis, the company said.

The consequence of a cow infected with digital dermatitis is lameness, Palantoni said.

“Lameness is a terrible problem for productivity,”​ he said.

To treat and prevent the issue, cow herds go through foot baths to kill the bacteria that cause foot diseases such as digital dermatitis. However, the current treatments are usually very harsh on the animal.

Dairy Cow - Thymox Hoof Bath
Dairy cows pass undergo daily foot baths to prevent damaging foot disease.

‘The problem is two-fold’

Since the disease was first discovered roughly 40 years ago, two products have been used since to disinfect cows’ hooves: Copper sulphate and formaldehyde, which are both “very nasty products,”​ Palantoni said.

“What they’re doing with these agents is trying to disinfect the hoof,”​ Palantoni said.  “But what’s happening with both of these agents is that it basically carpet bombs everything; so it’s really strong stuff.”

“It’s a problem for cows and it’s a problem for us,”​ Palantoni said.The harmful impact of using either of these products extends beyond the health of the cow. 

Once cows pass through the shallow troughs to wash their hooves, the foot bath water is then spread out into the fields where the cows graze and eat.

“It acidifies the soil; it poisons the soil permanently. Once you put the copper in the ground, you can’t get it back out,”​ Palantoni said.

Using Thymox Hoof has several advantages, according to the company. The active ingredient, thymol, is able to effectively disinfect that hoof without damaging living cells.

The solution is pH neutral, and will not harm someone who comes into contact with it. The thymol molecule works very differently than copper sulphate and formaldehyde, in that it works as a “cell membrane interrupter,”​ targeting the pathogen without harming bigger and more robust living cells.

“It disinfects the hooves and it actually helps the lesion heal better,”​ Palantoni said.

Using Thymox footbath products cost about the same as current methods, he added.

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