Genetic parameters for claw disorders and the effect of preselecting cows for trimming

D. van der Spek, J.A.M. van Arendonk, A.A.A. Vallee, H. Bovenhuis

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract Claw disorders are important traits relevant to dairy cattle breeding from an economical and welfare point of view. Selection for reduced claw disorders can be based on hoof trimmer records. Typically, not all cows in a herd are trimmed. Our objectives were to estimate heritabilities and genetic correlations for claw disorders and investigate the effect of selecting cows for trimming. The data set contained 50,238 cows, of which 20,474 cows had at least one claw trimming record, with a total of 29,994 records. Six claw trimmers scored 14 different claw disorders: abscess (AB), corkscrew claw (CC), (inter-)digital dermatitis or heel erosion (DER), double sole (DS), hardship groove (HG), interdigital hyperplasia (IH), interdigital phlegmon (IP), sand crack (SC), super-foul (SF), sole hemorrhage (SH), sole injury (SI), sole ulcer (SU), white line separation (WLS), yellow discoloration of the sole (YD), and a combined claw disorder trait. Frequencies of the claw disorders for trimmed cows ranged from 0.1% (CC, YD, HG) to 23.8% (DER). More than half of the cows scored had at least one claw disorder. Heritability on the observed scale ranged from 0.02 (DS, SH) to 0.14 (IH) and on the underlying scale from 0.05 to 0.43 in trimmed cows. Genetic correlations between laminitis-related claw disorders were moderate to high, and the same was found for hygiene-related claw disorders. The effect of selecting cows for trimming was first investigated by including untrimmed cows in the analyses and assuming they were not affected by claw disorders. Heritabilities on the underlying scale showed only minor changes. Second, different subsets of the data were created based on the percentage of trimmed cows in the herd. Heritabilities for IH, DER, and SU tended to decrease when a higher percentage of cows in the herd were trimmed. Finally, a bivariate model with a claw disorder and the trait “trimming status” was used, but heritabilities were similar. Heritability for trimming status was relatively high (0.09). Genetic correlations of trimming status with claw disorders were generally moderate to high. To conclude, the effect of selecting cows for trimming on the heritability for claw disorders is negligible. Selecting herds with a high fraction of cows being trimmed tended to decrease heritability. Trimming status, as such, is a heritable trait and correlated with claw disorders and is therefore an interesting trait to include in the genetic evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6070-6078
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • dutch dairy-cattle
  • risk-factors
  • foot disorders
  • sole ulcers
  • digital dermatitis
  • level prevalence
  • heel erosion
  • cubicle houses
  • free stalls
  • herd-level

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