Improving management practices
Management practices play a very important role in the development of hoof lesions. Different factors may influence hoof health, including type of floor and its condition (dry/wet, clean/dirty, presence/absence of adequate amount of bedding), nutrition and feeding management (low body scoring cows, overcrowding at feed bunk), as well the type of stall (e.g. higher prevalence of lesions in free-stalls than in tie-stalls). Very important is also the regularity of the trimmer session; it is recommended to trim hooves at least twice a year, ideally during the dry-off and again around 100 days in milk. Decreasing the incidence of hoof lesions can be achieved by improving management practices, but also through genetic selection. Under the same conditions, some cows will develop a lesion, and others will not. In the same way, some of the cows will recover more easily than others, and for some cows the same lesion will occur with a higher frequency or severity over the course of a single lactation. Selecting for resistance to hoof lesions could contribute to decrease their prevalence in dairy herds. Genetic improvement is permanent and desired gains cumulate through generations.
Data pipeline from hoof trimmers
Historically, a consistent selection for feet and leg conformation traits has not resulted in any decrease of hoof lesions. This is due to low genetic correlations between hoof lesions and type classification traits. Therefore we need to find alternative ways to select for more resistant cows, and hoof lesions need to be directly recorded. The objective of this large research project (part of Dairy Cluster 2) is to improve hoof health, by developing a data pipeline from hoof trimmers to Canadian DHI databank and to Canadian Dairy Network, and then to generate breeding values for sires. In order to create a national genetic evaluation system, a necessary step is to develop a data collection scheme that allows for the collection of reliable data in a univocal and consistent way. In order to achieve this goal, collaborative work with hoof trimmers is essential. Hoof trimmers willing to share data have been identified across Canada, and a standard protocol on which data and traits are collected has been developed. The Hoof Supervisor® system (hereafter named 'the system') (KS Dairy Consulting Wisconsin, USA) has been selected as the electronic device to be used in the project. The software has been adapted to include the permanent cow identification number and DHI herd number, and it is now available in a French and in an English version.