The split on biotin and claw health: “Don’t just spray with powders.”

Biotin is also known as Vitamin B8. It is a building block for the claw horn and acts as a cement between the cells of the horn. “In paw health, deficiency mainly affects the white line of the shoe horn and can lead to premature mating in dairy cows,” says Menno Holzhauer, a GD veterinarian and paw health expert, in a letter on the GD website.

According to Holzhauer, biotin is indispensable for healthy hooves. He points to a study in the United Kingdom showing that cows given 20 milligrams of supplemental biotin per day for six months showed up to 40 percent less lameness due to white line disorders. In calves, supplemental biotin did not result in any improvement.

For a long time it was assumed that cows produce enough biotin in their rumen. But according to GD, new insights show that’s not true for today’s highly productive dairy cows, which are fed more easily digestible rations with less bran.


If the claw problems are due to feeding, this can be seen in all claws

Peter Hutt is a European veterinarian and livestock specialist

In addition, the judgment must be good over a longer period of time. Obviously, you have less chance of white line disorders and better recovery from soleus ulcers. So Holzhauer refers to the GD program ‘Healthy Milk Claw TankIf you participate in this, your bulk milk will automatically be tested four times a year for biotin, zinc and manganese.

The importance of biotin overestimation

However, the importance of biotin in relation to hoof health is overstated, says European veterinarian and livestock specialist Peter Hutt. ‘Unfortunately. The disadvantage of focusing on just one vitamin is that it leads us to believe that the solution to a complex problem is very simple.

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According to Hut, this also applies to other animal health problems where the focus is explicitly on a single mineral, amino acid, or trace element. We start doing all kinds of things without really knowing what’s going on. We sprinkle powders and hope it gets better. But unfortunately, a basic measurement is not done beforehand.

The livestock specialist believes it is shortsighted to consider only biotin when dealing with hoof health problems. The claw horn is made of keratin and the production of keratin depends not only on vitamin B8 but also calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, cobalt, selenium and vitamins A, D and E.

The main stake must be correct

Hutt goes on to say that the basic ration should also be good. Farmers must undergo a full ration analysis before suggesting any deficiency. ‘But we’re not there yet.’ Many of the vitamins mentioned are also produced by the rumen microbiota. This is why the base ration must be good for the optimal functioning of the rumen flora.

Hut also points to a 2019 scientific paper showing that vitamin B8 is oversupplemented by about 3,300 percent for the average dairy cow. Now the entire Vitamin B line is water soluble and the excess is excreted. It probably won’t do any harm, but supplementing in excess of 3,300 percent and then adding more seems excessive to me.

If cows have hoof problems and the reason lies in their diet, it is a metabolic problem. You will have to see this on all of the animal’s claws. In other words, for all the indoor and outdoor hooves, eight in all, the livestock specialist gives advice to dairy farmers.

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tax problem

“But most of the problems are in the hind paw,” Hutt adds. By definition, this cannot be a metabolic problem. This is a tax problem. The reason is too little cow rest, standing and waiting times too long, uneven coop or ground course, turning circuits too short, overcrowding, group changes, or, say, a battle of the standings.

Loading problems can also be caused by insufficient ventilation or overheating. Cows may lie down, but remain standing to lose more heat. The Hutch: “It’s about good management aimed at the comfort of the cows and an excellent plan to improve hoof health. This doesn’t spray with biotin. And don’t even shear the herd once a year or do a paw bath every month.

Researched cows that received more biotin showed less lameness due to white stripe defects. © Marcel Berndsen

Veterinarian Gijs Hofstraat of the Dalfsen Veterinary Center helped companies where the biotin content of tank milk was low and where hoof defects played a role. Checking the biotin, zinc, manganese and iodine content of bulk milk is an integral part of the checklist in case of hoof problems. Go through all the factors.

After the farmers provided more biotin, the milk content increased after six months. Most of them later saw slightly fewer white stripe defects. “If the cows bother them, they recover more quickly,” Hofstrat says.

According to Hofsträth, it is not nonsense that the substance contributes to the strengthening of claws. “This is also evident from the research referred to by GD.” But its importance should not be overstated. Most companies manage hoof health very well without providing extra biotin. Its impact is often overestimated.

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“I am absolutely convinced that biotin leads to better hooves.”

Alwyn Bogard has been a hoof keeper in Lyxmond in Utrecht for 22 years and is a biotin enthusiast. “I am absolutely convinced that it leads to better hoof health.” However, according to him, you have to take a long breath, because you won’t see results until after six to twelve months.

We sometimes recommend farms with hoof problems. Livestock farmers add biotin to the ration in a feed mixer or feed biotin cutlets. After a year we really notice a difference. The number of sole ulcers and white streak defects is decreasing,” explains the hoof attendant.

Boogaard does not know if there are many dairy farms that are low in biotin. “As a hoof herder, I have no idea about that.” He believes the need for biotin in dairy farms is not at risk, although this has improved somewhat since Royal GD developed the Claw Health Tank Milk Program.

Other measures

Boogaard confirms that biotin doesn’t really cure all hoof problems. It’s a good tool, but you also need to arrange other things. Think, for example, of good hygiene and dry floors and cubicles. I could talk all afternoon about these kinds of procedures.

Boogaard doesn’t want to burn his fingers when asked how many grams of biotin a cow needs each day. “It is best to discuss this with your feed supplier.”

In addition to hoof care, Boogaard is a dairy farmer. He participates in the GD “Claw Health Tank Milk” program, where tank milk is checked for biotin, zinc, and manganese four times a year. “We always sign up for the green section and don’t feed any extra biotin.”

Megan Vasquez

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