Genetic parameters of sole lesion recovery in Holstein cows

Matthew Barden, Alkiviadis Anagnostopoulos, Bethany E Griffiths, Bingjie Li, Cherry Bedford, Chris Watson, Androniki Psifidi, Georgios Banos, Georgios Oikonomou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Sole hemorrhage and sole ulcers, referred to as sole lesions, are important causes of lameness in dairy cattle. The objective of this study was to estimate the genetic parameters of a novel trait reflecting how well cows recovered from sole lesions and the genetic correlation of this trait with overall susceptibility to sole lesions. A cohort of Holstein dairy cows was prospectively enrolled on 4 farms and assessed at 4 timepoints: before calving, immediately after calving, in early lactation, and in late lactation. At each timepoint, sole lesions were recorded at the claw level by veterinary surgeons and used to define 2 binary traits: (1) susceptibility to sole lesions-whether animals were affected with sole lesions at least once during the study or were unaffected at every assessment, and (2) sole lesion recovery-whether sole lesions healed between early and late lactation. Animals were genotyped and pedigree details extracted from the national database. Analyses were conducted with BLUPF90 software in a single-step framework; genetic parameters were estimated from animal threshold models using Gibbs sampling. The genetic correlation between both traits was approximated as the correlation between genomic estimated breeding values, adjusting for their reliabilities. A total of 2,025 animals were used to estimate the genetic parameters of sole lesion susceptibility; 44% of animals recorded a sole lesion at least once during the study period. The heritability of sole lesion susceptibility, on the liability scale, was 0.25 (95% highest density interval = 0.16-0.34). A total of 498 animals were used to estimate the genetic parameters of sole lesion recovery; 71% of animals had recovered between the early and late lactation assessments. The heritability of sole lesion recovery, on the liability scale, was 0.27 (95% highest density interval = 0.02-0.52). The approximate genetic correlation between each trait was -0.11 (95% confidence interval = -0.20 to -0.02). Our results indicate that recovery from sole lesions is heritable. If this finding is corroborated in further studies, it may be possible to use selective breeding to reduce the frequency of chronically lame cows. As sole lesion recovery appears to be weakly genetically related to sole lesion susceptibility, successful genetic improvement of sole lesion recovery would benefit from selection on this trait directly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1874-1888
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jan 2023
Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2023


  • genetic parameter
  • lameness
  • sole lesion
  • wound healing
  • Cattle/genetics
  • Animals
  • Cattle Diseases/genetics
  • Lameness, Animal/genetics
  • Hoof and Claw
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Lactation/genetics


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