Cattle lameness is a debilitating and painful condition, and is described as one of the clearest indicators of compromised welfare in dairy cattle and one of the most important causes of involuntary removal and replacement of animals. No other common condition is associated with such visible signs of pain and, as such, in addition to inflicting serious grief to the animal, lameness also damages the public’s perception of the livestock industry and poses a huge reputational threat. The project we propose here will collate large amounts of cattle lameness data from different sources, including UK foot trimmers, milk recording agencies, previous BBSRC funded work, and video analytics empowered by artificial intelligence. This effort will build upon work conducted by the University of Liverpool and funded by AHDB and BBSRC and will be supported by a number of key industry partners.

Our specific objectives are:

1.           To collate lameness associated data from various complementary sources and develop a unique, comprehensive database for cattle lameness.

2.           To perform genetic and genomic analyses of current and novel lameness-related phenotypes.

3.           Develop novel strategies to incorporate the studied lameness phenotypes in biology-driven breeding programmes.

4.           Use the generated database to offer additional management insights to UK dairy farmers.

5.           Achieve widespread and rapid impact via an extensive knowledge exchange (KE) programme underpinned by implementation science research.

The unique database generated in Objective 1 will be used for the genetic and genomic analyses of multiple animal traits related to animal resistance to endemic diseases associated with cattle lameness, aiming to generate new and enrich existing tools underpinning selective breeding and genetic improvement. Different breeding strategies will then be evaluated, based on these results, and their efficacy in controlling lameness will be determined. The database will be also used to generate management insights and develop relevant practices for on-farm use. More specifically, we will: 1) develop a lameness epidemiological pattern analysis tool, 2) develop models that will predict future lameness status of an individual animal, and 3) quantify the impact of lameness on future farm performance. These novel analytical tools will allow farmers to better manage lameness in their herds. Together, the industry partners collaborating for this proposal, provide an impressive suite of well-established knowledge exchange (KE) networks, opportunities and farmer training platforms. In combination with the research team, this proposal also unites a wealth of experience in delivering a diverse range of KE activities to farmers and vets. As the outputs from the project become available for use, this highly influential coalition of research and industry partners will be able to provide harmonized communications and widespread, high quality training and support for farmers, foot trimmers and vets.

Contacts details:

Professor G Oikonomou

Liverpool University