Researchers at the University of Guelph reported the results of a study designed to evaluate whether the ability of dairy cows to mount an immune response could be related to susceptibility to digital dermatitis (DD) infection. They showed that cows demonstrating a strong antibody-mediated response to an intramuscular antigen challenge had a lower prevalence of DD than cows showing an average or weaker response.
The adoption of a standardized, computer-based system for recording hoof trimming data (Hoof Supervisor® – HS) has made it possible to collect and analyse that data for application in herd benchmarking and genetic improvement. To that end, a Canadian research project is in progress to develop a process for data interchange between HS-equipped trimmers and the national Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) database and on to the Canadian Dairy Network, the national dairy genetics organization. The ability of trimmers to download DHI data in advance of a herd visit will also aid in the selection of cows to trim.
Although housing and management practices play a dominant role in dairy cattle hoof health, genetics can influence the incidence and severity of lesions. A preliminary analysis of hoof lesion data collected in 3 Canadian provinces suggests that it may be possible to use this type of data in genetic selection. A project is currently underway to investigate the possibility of incorporating data collected electronically by hoof trimmers into the Canadian national DHI database. This would facilitate the collection of the large quantities of data required to accurately calculate breeding values for hoof health traits.
The International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) has released a new guide to dairy cattle hoof disorders, including definitions and illustrations of the important foot and claw conditions. The new Claw Health Atlas will facilitate genetic improvement of dairy breeds by providing consistency in identification and recording of these conditions.
Although feeding and management have the most important short-term impact on hoof health, the role of genetics, although a longer-term influence, cannot be overlooked. Sweden has promoted breeding for healthy cows, maintaining high production for several decades. In 2006, a breeding value for claw health based on data recorded by hoof trimmers started to be included in the health profile.