Prevalence and distribution of foot lesions in dairy cattle in Alberta, Canada

By Barkema, H. W. and LeBlanc, S. J. and Mason, S. and Orsel, K. and Pajor, E. A. and Solano, L., J Dairy Sci, 2016
Research Paper Web Link / URL:
The objectives of this cross-sectional study were to determine the prevalence and distribution of foot lesions and associated cow- and herd-level risk factors in dairy cows in Alberta, Canada. Foot lesion data were recorded electronically by 7 hoof trimmers on 28,607 cows in 156 dairy farms from June 2009 to November 2012. Foot lesion prevalence estimates differed between farms that had the whole herd trimmed at once (>/=80% of lactating cows were trimmed; n=69 farms and 8,020 cows) and farms on which part of the herd was trimmed (selection of cows was determined by farmer and <80% of lactating cows were trimmed; n=87 and 20,587 cows). Estimates were consistently higher for the latter likely because farmers presumably prioritized lame cows in partial-herd trims. On farms with whole-herd trims, digital dermatitis was the most common lesion among all housing types, present in 15% of cows and 94% of herds. Sole ulcers and white line disease were detected in 6 and 4% of the cows and 92 and 93% of herds, respectively. Other infectious and claw horn lesions each affected 1 to 2% of cows and 62 to 78% of herds. Intraclass correlation coefficients for hoof trimmers ranged from 0.01 to 0.20 for all lesions, indicating some clustering of recorded lesions by trimmer. Multilevel mixed logistic regression models were constructed (including hoof trimmer as fixed and farm as random effects) for the 3 most frequently identified lesions. Prevalence of digital dermatitis decreased with increasing parity, but this effect interacted with days in milk (DIM); primiparous cows had higher odds of digital dermatitis in mid lactation (100-199 DIM) and late lactation (>/=200 DIM) compared with cows at other stages of lactation. In contrast, prevalence of sole ulcers and white line disease increased with increasing parity; compared with cows in parity 1, those in parity 4 had 5 or 7 times higher odds of having these lesions, respectively. Cows in mid lactation and late lactation had higher odds of sole ulcers and white line disease than cows at other stages of lactation, regardless of parity. Digital dermatitis prevalence was 2 times higher in herds housed in barns with access to an exercise area. The odds of sole ulcers and white line disease were >/=2 times higher in cows housed in freestalls than those housed in deep-bedded packs. Therefore, preventive measures for control of digital dermatitis merit emphasis, especially in primiparous cows and on farms with exercise areas. In addition, improving housing environment by providing a deep-bedded area for older cows in mid lactation or late lactation could reduce prevalence of claw horn lesions. We inferred that foot lesion data recorded by hoof trimmers can provide useful information not only to develop effective foot health programs at herd level, but also for disease surveillance and genetic improvement at regional and national levels.
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