Biotin and Lameness - A review

L. Green*, C. Muelling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


There are now many research papers published that indicate that an oral biotin supplement can be beneficial as part of a control programme to reduce lameness in cattle. These research papers are of varying quality, but the weight of evidence biologically and statistically indicates that biotin is most likely to act by improving hoof horn quality and so reduce diseases that occur with damage to hoof horn integrity; the most common of these diseases in GB are white line disease and sole ulcer. Biotin acts at a cellular level by activation of protein synthesis; it has important functions in cellular lipid metabolism and lipid synthesis and according to recent results also influences/modulates expression of certain genes. Most important for its effects on claw horn structure and integrity is the role biotin plays in lipid synthesis. Biotin is an essential co-factor for enzymes involved in de novo synthesis of fatty acids or in synthesis of long chain fatty acids by chain elongation. Fatty acids and, in particular long chain fatty acid which are not present in the diet, are components of the complex lipids within the intercellular cementing substance of hoof horn. This cement establishes cell adhesion between the horn cells. Its quality is directly linked to hoof horn integrity. Biotin also influences keratin protein synthesis via activation on protein synthesis and thus helps improving stability of horn cells. Whether and to what extent the effects on gene expression are involved in the effects of biotin on horn formation remains unclear at this stage. However, it seems likely that additional mechanisms explaining the biological effects on horn formation will be revealed by laboratory research in the future. Results from epidemiological studies of supplementation indicate that a supplement of 20mg per day active biotin given continuously each day (this vitamin is water soluble) at all stages of production is effective at reducing lameness/foot lesions in cattle 4-6 months after starting supplementation. The amount of reduction will vary by herd but may be as high as 50%. The current cost of biotin (July 2005) is such that it costs £3.50-£10.00 to supplement a dairy cow for one year. Lameness is estimated to cost £145 per cow per year. Consequently, if supplementing a 100 cow dairy herd reduces lameness by 3-7 cows per year, biotin is a cost effective tool in the fight to reduce lameness. There is also evidence that biotin may improve milk yield in high yielding herds by approximately 2kg per cow per day in early lactation; consequently it may also be worth considering that the cost of biotin supplementation may also be offset against the value of extra milk produced. However, biotin is not a cure all for the prevention of lameness, which has a multifactorial aetiology, and a focused programme for lameness reduction also needs to include a balanced diet, comfortable lying conditions, ease of rising, walking without fear to eat, to be milked, to loaf and to lying areas, high quality flooring where cattle can express their normal gait, successful social integration into the herd for heifers and returning dry cows, good management of transition cattle, and high standards of hygiene to minimise contact with faeces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
JournalCattle Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • Biotin
  • Dairy cow lameness
  • Epidemiology
  • Histopathology
  • Hoof horn integrity
  • Keratin quality
  • Supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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