New Genetic Evaluation Tool for Hoof Health

A genetic evaluation tool for Hoof Health is now available for the Holstein breed. The tool promotes increased resistance to eight key foot lesions.

The selection for Hoof Health index was made possible through a research project financed under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (a partnership between Dairy Farmers of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN)) that spanned from 2014 to 2017, targeted at improving hoof health in Canadian dairy herds. After only one year since the project’s completion, CDN is able to transfer the research to the field with genetic evaluations for Hoof Health.

Two other key outcomes from the research project were also delivered. The first is the development of a data collection pipeline from hoof trimmers, to Canadian DHI, and then on to CDN, where it is stored in a national database. The second outcome includes the development of an interactive DHI hoof health management report, which will be available to dairy farmers in the coming months.

From Genetic Evaluations for Digital Dermatitis to an Overall Hoof Health Index

Genetic selection for increased resistance to Digital Dermatitis has been possible since December 2017. The new Hoof Health (HH) evaluation will replace Digital Dermatitis as the primary selection tool – a logical transition since Digital Dermatitis is one of the eight lesions that make up the Hoof Health index. The full list of lesions included in Hoof Health are included in Table 1. The frequency of Digital Dermatitis is the highest among the eight lesions, at approximately 17%. Of cows presented to the hoof trimmer, 46% experience at least one hoof lesion in their lifetime.

Table 1: Frequencies, Heritabilities, Correlations and RBV Translation for the Eight Hoof Lesions Included in the Hoof Health index
Lesion Frequency (%) Heritability (%) Correlation with Hoof Health index (%) Expected % increase in Healthy Daughters for each 5 point increase in Hoof Health
Digital Dermatitis 16.9 8 85 4.6
Interdigital Dermatitis   2.6 5 70 0.9
Heel Horn Erosion   2.9 8 76 0.1
Sole Ulcer   8.5 5 74 3.0
Toe Ulcer   1.3 4 3 0.5
White Line Lesion   4.7 4 9 1.4
Sole Hemorrhage   7.4 3 63 0.9
Interdigital Hyperplasia   2.2 7 40 1.1

The heritability of each individual lesion is included in Table 1, ranging from 3% to 8%. The heritability of the overall Hoof Health index is 9%, meaning 9% of the variation for hoof lesions seen in Holsteins can be attributed to genetics. Correlations of the individual lesions with the overall Hoof Health index are also presented in Table 1. Infectious lesions like Digital Dermatitis, Interdigital Dermatitis and Heel Horn Erosion have high correlations with Hoof Health. The correlations between Hoof Health and the non-infectious lesions like Sole Ulcer, Toe Ulcer, White Line Lesion, Sole Hemorrhage and Interdigital Hyperplasia are more variable. Toe Ulcer and White Line Lesion have the lowest correlations with Hoof Health since they each have a small negative genetic correlation with the three infectious hoof lesions.

Overall, the correlation between Hoof Health and both the Lifetime Profit Index and Pro$ is 58%, meaning selection for either national index will result in improvement for Hoof Health.

In the coming months, a separate Relative Breeding Value for each of the eight lesions will appear on the CDN website when selecting the “Health” tab for any Holstein sire.

For a copy of the full article, you can download it here: Genetic Selection for Improved Hoof Health is Now Possible!

Video Blog : Derek Haley on Calf Health

A new video blog (VLOG) is available featuring Dr. Derek Haley of the University of Guelph reporting on his research findings in calf health, welfare and the use of automatic calf feeders. Funded under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018), Dr. Haley and his collaborators investigated the labour requirements, potential welfare benefits for calves and the ability to accelerate performance of pre-weaned calves housed in groups with automated feeders. Watch the VLOG of Derek reporting on his findings on the Dairy Research Cluster YouTube Channel here:


Dairy Research Excellence: Canadian dairy scientist awarded prestigious 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize

Left to right: Norbert Trautmann, President Hans Sigrist Foundation, University of Bern; Marina von Keyserlingk, 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize Winner, University of British Columbia; Rupert Bruckmaier, Head of Veterinary Physiology, University of Bern and Hans Sigrist Prize search committee chair.

University of British Columbia Professor Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk was recognized by the Hans Sigrist Foundation at the University of Bern, Switzerland, with the 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize for her outstanding academic contributions in the field of Sustainably Produced Food of Animal Origin.

“The search committee was unanimous in recognizing that she is truly outstanding when compared to others working in the same field” stated committee chair Professor Rupert Bruckmaier, Head of Veterinary Physiology at the University of Bern.

The foundation awards the Hans Sigrist Prize  with an equivalent of $130,000 CAD research grant to a mid-career academic researcher to recognize research contributions to date and to encourage further outstanding work.

Dr. von Keyserlingk had held a NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Animal Welfare supported by the dairy sector, including Dairy Farmers of Canada, since 2008. Nina is recognized internationally for cutting-edge research on the care and housing of dairy cows and calves. She has been a pioneer in the use of behaviour (including especially automated measures) for the early detection and prediction of disease in animals. This work has focused on the use of changes in feeding and social behaviour as early indicators of disease, and has provided a basis for the rapid growth in new research focused on automated health assessments on farms.

Her work is also among the first in the field of animal welfare to incorporate qualitative methods when addressing animal welfare issues, such as interviews, focus groups and online crowd sourcing tools to understand perspectives of farmers, veterinarians and the public with regards to animal care and use. This work has motivated scientific research better targeted at perceived constraints and illustrates a new trend towards interdisciplinary research to address societal concerns around animal agriculture.

Mastitis MOOCs

A new series of MOOCs on mastitis (MOOC is a Massive Online Open Course) is available free through the Université de Montréal. The series was designed by the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network (CBMQRN) and Université de Montréal as part of the NSERC CREATE in Milk Quality Program. The researchers brought together experts from more than 20 countries to produce the series to initiate graduate students to mastitis science and prepare them for their research programs. Dairy practitioners, teachers and other professionals with a solid scientific background can also enrol to advance their knowledge.

The first MOOC called, The mammary gland and its response to infectionhas been available since November 2017. It contains basic knowledge on mammary gland anatomy and physiology, immune response, the role of genetics, and pathophysiology. Information can be found at: Mastitis MOOC 1.

The second MOOC, Mastitis Epidemiology and Diagnostic, presents methods of identification of mastitis infections and methods of diagnostics. Enrolment and information can be accessed at: Mastitis MOOC 2 .

A third MOOC entitled, Mastitis control and milk quality, will be available at a later time.