Genetic Analysis of Clinical Lameness in Dairy Cattle

P. J. Boettcher, J. C.M. Dekkers, L. D. Warnick, S. J. Wells

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Scores for clinical lameness from two separate studies were combined, and genetic parameters were estimated based on linear and threshold models. Cows were from 24 herds in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Virginia. To evaluate clinical lameness, cows were observed walking and were assigned a score between 0 and 4 (where 0 = no observable problems to 4 = inability to walk). Data included 1624 records on 1342 cows. The models included fixed effects of herd visit, parity, and stage of lactation. Random effects were additive genetics, permanent environment to account for repeated records, and residual. Estimates of heritability were 0.10 and 0.22 from the linear and threshold models, respectively. The correlation between ETA from linear and threshold models based on all animals was 0.974. Deregressed ETA of sires and REML were used to estimate genetic correlations between clinical lameness and conformation traits. Among the type traits, foot angle, rear legs (rear view), and rump width had strongest associations with clinical lameness; absolute values for genetic correlations between these traits and clinical lameness were approximately 0.65. Low foot angle, hocking in, and wide rumps were associated with increased clinical lameness. Correlations with strength and body depth ranged from 0.20 to 0.43, indicating that heavier cows were more prone to clinical lameness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1148-1156
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998


  • Clinical lameness
  • Genetic correlation
  • Heritability
  • Type


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