Taking steps to improve lameness

Lameness in dairy cows is set to reduce according to the latest data from AHDB Dairy.

Farmers are now choosing bulls whose daughters are predicted to have 1.4 per cent fewer cases of lameness per lactation since the introduction of a dedicated genetic index last year.

With lameness costing an average £180 per cow in extra treatment costs and loss of yield, this development will see improved cow welfare and lower costs for farmers.

Marco Winters, AHDB head of animal genetics, said: “Although it’s early days, it is great to see signs that the industry is making use of our new genetic index.”

Introduced in April 2018 the Lameness Advantage genetic index combines type data for locomotion and Feet & Legs, bone quality scores, digital dermatitis records along with direct lameness recordings from National Milk Records (NMR) and Cattle Information Service (CIS).

Mr Winters continued: “Prior to April last year farmers were indirectly selecting for better lameness by choosing bulls which generally had better lifespan, fertility or conformations.

“The average bull used in May 2019 had a Predicted Transmitting Ability (PTA) of +1.4, with the 50 most used sires showing an even better lameness advantage of +1.6.”

As genetic improvement of the national herd made today is both permanent and accumulates over generations, dairy farmers can expect to benefit from their semen buying decisions for years to come yet.

Lameness Advantage was included in the national profit rankings – Profitable Lifetime index (£PLI), Spring Calving Index (£SCI) and Autumn Calving Index (£ACI) – in August 2018.

The trait is available for all breeds of bull evaluated in the UK and genomically evaluated Holsteins. Updated figures will be released by AHDB Dairy with the next proof run scheduled for the 13 August.

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.