Evaluation of agreement among digital dermatitis scoring methods in the milking parlor, pen, and hoof trimming chute

G. Cramer, T. Winders, L. Solano, D. H. Kleinschmit

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16 Scopus citations


Digital dermatitis (DD) is the most common infectious foot lesion affecting welfare and productivity of dairy cattle. The key to DD control programs is routine and frequent identification of DD lesions. The objective was to evaluate accuracy of detecting and scoring DD lesions in 3 milking parlor designs and in 3 alternative settings compared with scoring in the hoof trimming chute as reference. A total of 552 cows and 1,104 hind feet from 17 freestall farms were scored by 1 observer in the milking parlor and in 1 other setting: pen, headlocks, or management rail. After being scored in the milking parlor and at least 1 other setting, cows were examined in the hoof trimming chute, considered the gold standard. In every setting, all hind feet were inspected visually using a flashlight and without prior washing of feet. Agreement of the scoring settings was assessed using the 5 M-stage scoring system and a dichotomous absence (M0 or M0/M1) or presence (M1 to M4.1 or M2 to M4.1) system. At trimming chute inspection, 44% of feet had a DD lesion, with estimates of 11, 5, 2, 10, and 16% for M1, M2, M3, M4, and M4.1 lesions, respectively. Apparent DD foot-level prevalence at the milking parlor, pen, management rail, and headlocks was 28, 22, 16, and 22%, respectively. M-stages were less discernible in the pen, management rail, and headlocks (apparent prevalence of M1, M2, M3, and M4.1 was ≤1%) compared with the trimming chute and milking parlor. Agreement beyond chance between any scoring setting and trimming chute scoring ranged from 0.48 to 0.70 for the dichotomous scoring system (absence = M0/M1 vs. presence = M2 to M4.1). Diagnostic test performance varied greatly among DD scoring settings but, in general, it had low sensitivity (<70%) and high specificity (>93%) for detecting any DD lesion. Agreement and test characteristics were not affected by the type of milking parlor. Although the milking parlor and headlocks were the most reliable settings in which to detect DD, none of the settings were reliable enough to replace inspection of feet in the trimming chute. However, scoring the presence or absence of DD in the milking parlor, pen, management rail, and headlocks could be used to estimate within-herd DD prevalence, to improve DD surveillance through routine monitoring, and to evaluate effects of interventions at the farm level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2406-2414
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Dairy Science Association


  • dairy cattle
  • diagnostic test
  • digital dermatitis
  • hoof trimming
  • pen walk


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