Dairy Cattle - Lameness (PB4020)

Breeding

Physical characteristics of feet and legs are inherited. The important features are the shape of the foot, depth of heel and hock and pastern angle.

Whilst there is no established link between these features (shape of foot, depth of heel and hock and pastern angle) and the general incidence of lameness, it is good practice to be aware of the potential risk when selecting sires. Sire selection is a complex process and, in the main, improvement of production characteristics are those which are most sought after in commercial herds. Nonetheless, it is imperative that sire selection should take fully into account good linear assessment scores for straightness of leg and foot depth and angle. The majority of sires available through AI will have been pre-selected for satisfactory type characteristics. However, where weaknesses have been identified within herds, then corrective mating must be carried out.

Replacements should not be bred from cows with a history of severe clinical lameness or badly deformed feet and legs, particularly a history of corkscrew claw. It is therefore important for good records to be kept of all cases of lameness. Remember, although cows may have good foot shape and good conformation of the rear leg, this does not mean that they necessarily have strong horn. Certain breeds, eg Channel Island, have far harder horn than 'black and white' cows and as a consequence suffer less solar damage.

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