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How to calculate the hidden costs of footbaths

Chip Hendrickson for Progressive Dairy Published on 24 February 2020

When it comes to your footbath costs, there’s more to it than just the sticker price.

Many dairy producers are looking for ways to cut back on costs, and hoof care products are no exception.

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More times than not, I have seen farms that only look at the “sticker” price of products and try to switch to more “economical” options for their herd. When it comes to footbath additive options, the price per barrel can vary greatly.

Now with such broad price ranges on products, we need to understand something. Not all products are the same. Some are an aldehyde, a form of copper sulfate or a zinc-based product. Even products that are marketed as the same, such as liquid copper sulfate, are not the same, as the concentration level can vary.

Calculate the cost per cow pass

Instead of looking at the sticker price alone, I recommend looking at the cost per cow pass for footbath products. Looking at your footbath this way is more effective and lets you see a broader picture of your operation. With this perspective, you are looking at the cost for the product, dosage amounts, cow passes before change-out/replenish and how you fill the bath.

Retail prices

Above are a few examples based on retail prices published online for a few popular products on the market to show how we can calculate cost per cow pass based on barrel price and the recommended dosage and frequency of the bath.

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Note: The price you receive from a dealer may be higher or lower; these prices and products were selected as examples to illustrate this process.

If a dairy manager only looked at sticker price of the four footbath products and wanted to try to save money, they would have chosen Product 3 or 4. However, once we broke down the cost per cow pass, a switch would actually cost money based on cost per cow pass if the products had the same weekly usage. The dairy would go through five drums of Product 3 before they would need to reorder Product 1. This is why it’s important to take the time to really break down the cost of the product when you are looking to see where you need to and can cut back on cost.

Frequency

Now that you have that broken down, let’s look at the label again (or talk to your chemical supply representative) to determine how many baths per week to run with that product at the recommended dosage to see and maintain results. Some products will require a bath every day at the recommended dosage to be effective, while others may only require three baths during the week. Table 1 demonstrates the recommended weekly usage of the products.

Weekly cost per cow pass (based on recommended footbath frequency)

Note that Product 1 needs to be run five days a week, Product 2 needs to be run every day, and Products 3 and 4 only need to run three times per week.

Changing out or replenishing the footbath

Now we see a clearer picture of the real cost of a footbath product. There are still a few variables remaining, especially if a dairy has more than 300 cows. The main variable remaining is replenishing the footbath (Table 2).

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Weekly cost per cow pass (based on recommended frequency of footbath change out or replinishing))

Some products simply require that more be added to replenish the bath, which can be done while maintaining cow flow. Others require an entire bath change-out due to inorganic material polluting the bath which disrupts cow flow, so you can test the pH and mix the product together.

How change-out and replenishing are handled can greatly impact your cost per cow pass. Additives that just need to be added to the bath to maintain its efficacy will remain relatively close for the cost per cow pass and can even be lowered if you have an automated footbath dosing system installed. For products that require a complete change-out or pH testing before being re-used, the cost will increase with additional manual labor cost, testing strips and impaired cow flow. In Table 2 is a chart based on a 1,000-cow dairy I have consulted based on replenishing the bath.

Products 1, 2 and 3 were all able to be used with an automated footbath dosing system. However, the amount needed for replenishing the bath varied among the products in order to maintain the bath’s efficacy due to soil load. Product 4 could only be replenished manually, which drove the cost up immensely.

As you can see from these quick examples, the cost of your footbath regimen is a lot more than just the sticker price. It is worth the time to take a deeper dive into your products’ cost to gain a clearer picture.  end mark

  • Chip Hendrickson

  • Hoof Care Specialist
  • AgroChem Inc.
  • Email Chip Hendrickson

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