The objectives were (1) to estimate the genetic parameters and breeding values of hoof lesions, (2) to estimate the phenotypic effect of each feet and legs conformation traits on hoof lesions, and (3) to estimate genetic correlations between hoof lesions with feet and legs conformation traits. The presence or absence of specific hoof lesions was recorded for each hoof. Lesions were classified into infectious (digital and interdigital dermatitis, foot rot, and heel erosion), horn (sole and toe ulcer, sole hemorrhage, and white line disease), and other lesions (interdigital hyperplasia, fissures, thin soles, and corkscrew claw). A total of 34,905 hoof health records from 27,179 cows and 365 herds, collected by 18 different hoof-trimmers in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, were analyzed using linear animal models. In addition, 5 feet and leg conformation traits (foot angle, heel depth, bone quality, rear leg side view, and rear leg rear view) and locomotion from primiparous cows were considered (n = 11,419 and 6,966 cows, for conformation traits and locomotion, respectively). At least one lesion was found in nearly 40% of the hoof trimming records. The heritability estimates for hoof lesions ranged from 0.01 for front horn lesions to 0.09 for rear infectious lesions. Despite the low heritability estimates, we observed large variability in sire estimated breeding value (EBV) for resistance to hoof lesions. Positive genetic correlations were found between the occurrence of front and rear infectious lesions (0.77) and between front and rear horn lesions (0.61), but not between infectious and horn lesions (0.08). For most of the conformation traits, low scores were phenotypically associated with higher incidence of horn lesions, whereas we found no evidence of a phenotypic effect of feet and leg traits on infectious lesions. The heritability of the conformation traits ranged from 0.04 for rear leg rear view to 0.22 for bone quality, whereas that for locomotion was 0.03. The genetic correlations between hoof lesions and conformation traits were low to moderate, yet most of the estimates were associated with high standard errors. In conclusion, although hoof lesions are lowly heritable traits, sufficient genetic variation exists (as evidenced by large variability in sire EBV) for genetic improvement through direct selection in the long term. Standardization of hoof health data collection is encouraged.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors are grateful to the hoof trimmers who participated in this study. This project was funded by DairyGen council of Canadian Dairy Network (Guelph, ON, Canada), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Ottawa, ON, Canada), and Alberta Milk (Edmonton, AB, Canada). Núria Chapinal was supported by a Beatriu de Pinós postdoctoral grant from the Generalitat de Catalunya.
- Genetic parameter
- Horn lesion
- Infectious lesion