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5 Jan 2024 - NTM Unlocked #13

A trustworthy Hoof health index

Lameness caused by hoof disorders is among the biggest challenges that a dairy herd can face. Lameness is one of the top three culling reasons after fertility and udder diseases. Hoof problems cause pain and distress for cattle and significantly impact the farm’s bottom line.

The costs related to lameness are enormous and include, for example: 

  • Fertility problems
  • Veterinarian and medicine expenses
  • Costs of preventive measures
  • Lost milk production
  • Culling costs
  • Genetic impact of losing top-performing daughters
  • Extra time and labor costs
Hoof health index NTM

Hoof health index

The Hoof health index has a weight of 17% for VikingJersey, 11% for VikingHolstein and 9% for VikingRed.

The Hoof health index strongly correlates to NTM – 24% for VikingHolstein.  It also has a strong correlation with Longevity (22%), General health (30%), Feet & Legs (19%), and Udder health (17%).

The Hoof health index measures the bull’s daughters’ genetic ability to resist hoof diseases and includes breeding values for 10 hoof disorders grouped into seven sub-traits:

  • Sole ulcer
  • Sole haemorrhage
  • Heel horn erosion
  • Digital dermatitis + interdigital dermatitis
  • Verrucose dermatitis + interdigital hyperplasia
  • Double sole + White line separation
  • Corkscrew claw  

Sole ulcer is the costliest of hoof disorders and has the highest weight in the index. A severe case of sole ulcer can cost approximately 1,300 € under Nordic conditions.

Jersey cow hoof

Breed for stronger hoof health

The data behind the Hoof health index is the records on hoof disorders collected by hoof trimmers during the first three lactations.

Hoof trimmers register all “findings” or all “no findings” on each hoof of every cow they trim into three different categories:

  • 0 - no disease
  • 1 - mild disease
  • 2 - severe disease

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 traits - like Feet & Legs conformation. A feet and legs index, on its own, is not a good enough predictor for improving hoof health.

The correlation between the Feet & Legs index and the Hoof health index is around 20%. Only one out of five times would you 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.

Want to learn how much improvement you could get from a bull with high breeding values for hoof health? Read the next entry of NTM Unlocked.

Learn more about the hoof health index
VikingRed cow hoof

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