NTM Unlocked
Hoof Health index

In this and our next post, we are going to talk about Hoof Health. 

The Hoof Health index is strongly correlated with NTM, for VikingHolstein that number is 35%.  It also has a strong correlation with Longevity (38%), General Health (25%) and Daughter Fertility (23%). The Hoof Health index is a very important trait, both for dairy cows’ well-being and comfort but also for economic reasons. Lameness is among the top culling reasons in dairy cows.

The Hoof Health index measures the bull’s daughters’ genetic ability to resist hoof diseases and it includes breeding values for 10 hoof disorders grouped into seven sub-traits. Sole ulcer as the most costly hoof disorder (a severe case is estimated to cost 1,300 € under Nordic conditions) has the highest weight in the index. Among other diseases included in this index are Digital dermatitis, Corkscrew claw and Sole Hemorrhage. The data behind the Hoof Health index is the records on hoof disorders collected by hoof trimers during the first three lactations. 

What makes the Hoof Health index unique is that in the Nordic countries, we register actual disease cases and don’t just rely on correlated trait - like Feet & Leg conformation. The Feet & Leg index alone is not a good enough predictor for improving hoof health. The correlation between Feet & Leg index and Hoof Health index is around 25%. Only one out of four times, you would succeed in improving hoof health if you rely on Feet & Leg conformation. Therefore, registrations of actual diseases are a more accurate breeding value base. Electronic hoof trimmer data is collected for 40% of cows in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. That results in a high reliability of breeding value for hoof health. 

In our next post, we will talk about how much improvement you can expect from a bull with high breeding values for Hoof Health sub-indices. 

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