GENEX Publishes Foot Health Breeding Values

Cow number 8798 was the high cow on test day. She continues to impress on her production levels and bottom-line profitability. But, she came up lame yesterday and was moved to the sick pen. This common scenario is one that plays out on dairies across the industry, and GENEX now offers a breeding value that can help select for foot health.

Sole ulcer, digital dermatitis, foot rot – whatever the cause, foot issues affect a cow’s ability to be a productive and profitable member of the herd. GENEX has published a Foot Health (FH) breeding value to aid in genetic selection for healthier animals. This breeding value, first released in December 2016, is a prime example of the cooperative’s dedication to data-driven innovation for the genetic improvement of members’ herds.

Lameness Impact
From both an economic and animal welfare point of view, foot disorders are a leading concern for dairies of any size across the industry. The frequency in which cows are affected also makes foot health a major priority.

According to lameness observations in the cooperative's dairy research database, lameness has a 14.8% prevalence among dairy cattle with prevalence increasing by lactation.

On the economic side, industry studies indicate financial impacts to a dairy can range from $130 to over $450 per case depending on the particular foot condition.

FH Breeding Value
FH has a base of 100. Sires with higher values should have daughters with fewer foot health issues. For example,
sire A has a value of 105 and sire B has a value of 95 then daughters of Bull A will average 13.5% better for foot health. FH heritability is 16.5%. 

Selection for improved health is most advantageous when FH is used in conjunction with sire selection criteria like the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index. The FH breeding value is included in the December 2016 update to the ICC$ index formula

FH Development
FH is calculated by CRI International Center for Biotechnology (ICB) research scientists using the cooperative's dairy research database. The database contains more than 26 million health events from nearly 4 million cows.

Industry Leader for Health Selection

When choosing sires, remember that FH is …

  • A valuable sire selection tool to improve foot health when used in combination with the ICC$ index.
  • A genetic way to help reduce foot health issues in future generations.
  • An innovative breeding value brought to you by GENEX.