A history of lameness and low body condition score is associated with reduced digital cushion volume, measured by magnetic resonance imaging, in dairy cattle

JP Wilson, LV Randall, MJ Green, CS Rutland, CR Bradley, HJ Ferguson, AH Bagnall, JN Huxley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Claw horn lesions (CHL) are the result of a failing of the functional anatomy of the hoof in dairy cows. The digital cushion is understood to be a vital structure in the prevention of CHL. Claw horn lesions have previously been shown to lead to pathological change to the pedal bone; however, their effects on the digital cushion are unknown. The primary aim of this study was to examine associations between the history of CHL through an animal's life and the structure of the digital cushion at slaughter using magnetic resonance imaging. The retrospective cohort study resulted in the scanning of 102 pairs of hindfeet, collected from adult Holstein dairy cows culled from a research herd, using a 3-Tesla research-grade magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Volume and fat measurements were calculated for each digital cushion within each claw from a modified Dixon Quant sequence. Animal-level variables were constructed around the animals' lactating lifetime, with lameness scores and body condition score collected at least every 2 wk. The combined volume of digital cushion in the lateral claws was used as the outcome variable in multivariable linear models. The volume of the digital cushion was negatively associated with the number of lameness events or CHL recorded. Furthermore, animals with body condition score >3, culled later in lactation, or of a greater body weight were more likely to have a higher volume of digital cushion in the lateral claws. We propose that the observations made in the current study are the effects of a range of factors broadly associated with genetic, developmental, and disease-related inputs. Our understanding of how we can select for genetically more robust animals and how we can precondition the hoof before first calving needs to be improved to reduce the risk of future CHL in adult dairy cattle. Furthermore, understanding optimal treatment regimens and their effect on hoof anatomy may reduce the recurrence of CHL in the current lactation and future lactations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7026-7038
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
Early online date24 Mar 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • claw horn lesion
  • dairy cow
  • digital cushion
  • lameness
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • Lactation
  • Cattle Diseases
  • Animals
  • Foot Diseases/veterinary
  • Cattle
  • Lameness, Animal
  • Female
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/veterinary
  • Retrospective Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'A history of lameness and low body condition score is associated with reduced digital cushion volume, measured by magnetic resonance imaging, in dairy cattle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this