Improved hoof health - increased profit

By Lea Foustad Harbo, VikingDanmark

Hoof disorders in dairy cattle cause lameness and a lot of pain and  leads to large loss in production and early involuntary culling of cows. Lameness is a symptom of a very painful condition and an important welfare problem in modern dairy production.

Nursing, environment and feeding play a central role in the occurrence of hoof disorders, but also genetics are important. Modern high-producing dairy cows have a high risk of  hoof disorders – also in good environment.

The most effective way to increase the resistance against hoof disorder through breeding in long term is by using hoof health as a breeding goal. By including hoof health in the Nordic Total Merit Index (NTM), Viking-Genetics was the first Artificial Insemination (AI) company in the  world with hoof health in their breeding goal.

The fact that genetic progress in hoof health is possible is mainly due to the access to the world’s largest database for hoof health. Hoof trimmers in Sweden, Denmark and Finland register the data and today we have more than 4 mill. registrations in the database.
In the hoof health index, there  are registrations from cows in lactation 1-3. Some disorders have  been categorized because they are symptoms of the same or almost the same disorder:
  • Infectious or hygiene related (digital dermatitis, skin proliferation and heel horn erosion)
  • Laminitis related disorders (sole haemorrhages, white line disease and sole ulcer) Malformation hoofs (cork screw hoof)
  • Sole ulcer has the highest weight in the hoof health index since  this is the disorder with the highest economic loss and a very painful disorder for the cow.

Differences between bulls
VH Clark, one of our proven bulls  with NTM +27 has a hoof health index of 128 and for digital dermatitis specifically, he has 143. That  means that  VH  Clark  actually  lowers  the risk of getting the disease by 50% on his daughters. This is worth taking into  consideration when selecting bulls to use in the herd.

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