Ask the Vet

Cautionary Tale of a Corkscrew Claw

Founder, or an infection in the claw, can resemble a case of corkscrew claw. If concerned, a complete exam is in order, as corkscrew claw is a condition that can be passed down into the herd.(DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Mark Parker)

Question:

We bought a really nice long-yearling Simmental bull at a registered sale in the spring. He was very correct and sound when we bought him, but after a couple of months, we noticed the inside claws on his rear feet were rolling outward and up. I am worried this could be screw claw. My neighbor says it is not, and if we trim his feet he would be fine. I'm not convinced. I know screw claw is supposed to be an inherited condition. The bull is guaranteed, but I really like him. What do you think I should do with him?

Answer:

There are some things here that do not fit exactly with corkscrew claw (aka screw claw). It is most common in the lateral (outside) claws of the hind legs of cattle older than 3 years of age. It is reported to be caused by an inherited misalignment of the second and third bones in the claw. Similar-looking problems can be caused by founder, infection in the claw and environmental issues.

I would advise having a complete examination done by a veterinarian with expertise in foot care or returning this bull to the breeder. To fully evaluate the condition, the bull may need to be restrained on a tilt table or chute, and radiographs may also be indicated. I would need to be very convinced that this was not corkscrew claw before I would use him even for one season.

As I noted, this condition usually takes years to show up. That means you could end up with a lot of cows with this problem years down the road and more cows with similar genetics in the herd. The bull would be long gone, but his calling card would remain. I think your concerns are warranted.

(SK)