Increasing the sustainability of dairy cattle by providing genetic tools to reduce lameness, improving welfare and production

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $23,623.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of California, Davis
Region: Western
State: California
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Anita Oberbauer
University of California, Davis


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, genetics, livestock breeding, preventive practices
  • Education and Training: extension, participatory research, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    Rationale: Lameness affects 36% of dairy cows in the US (USDA, 2016) and is associated with
    reduced milk production and premature culling, raising welfare and economic concerns.
    Lameness is often caused by claw lesions that manifest as open wounds in the soft tissue behind
    the hoof, commonly foot warts (FW) and sole ulcers (SU). To enable genomic selection against
    these conditions, the genomic regions that govern susceptibility to FW and SU must first be
    Research question: What are the genomic regions associated with increased susceptibility to
    FW and SU in dairy cattle?
    Significance: Genomic regions identified in this study can be incorporated into selection indices,
    allowing producers to select for cows genetically protected against FW and SU. These future
    generations of healthier and more efficient cows will produce milk with a smaller environmental
    Methods: DNA from healthy and affected cows will be used in a genome wide association
    (GWA) analysis for identification of chromosomal regions linked to case/control status. We will
    use hoof scoring phenotypes and genotypes from the high-density single nucleotide
    polymorphism (SNP) panel (800K SNPs) using FW n = 30, SU n = 30, controls n = 60. The
    GWA will be performed using stratified allelic and pedigree-based association.
    Expected outcomes: Because FW and SU are complex traits dictated by many loci (van der
    Spek et al., 2015), stratified allelic and pedigree-based GWA analyses will likely reveal multiple
    chromosomal regions associated with the affected status. Despite the different analyses, we
    expect some of the chromosomal regions from the different analyses will agree, validating those
    Outreach: We will communicate our findings directly with local producers at conferences and
    vicariously through the extension team in the Animal Science Department at the University of
    California, Davis. We will also share our findings through trade publications.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The broad, long-term goal of this proposal is to reduce the incidence of lameness and
    improve hoof health of Holstein dairy cattle. Thus, the objectives for this proposal are to:
    1. Perform a genome wide association analysis to identify QTL regions contributing to
    genetic susceptibility to FW and SU
    Western SARE.
    2. Utilize the the SNPs of largest effect to develop a predictive model to reduce
    susceptibility to FW or SU that can be used in conjunction with the current selection tools
    for milk production attributes to reduce the prevalence of FW and SU within a herd while
    maintaining overall milk quantity and quality

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.