What Is The Alberta Dairy Hoof Health Project?

Because of the increasing concern about lameness in our dairy herds, in the Spring of 2008 Alberta Milk’s Research and Extension Committee decided to take steps to tackle the problem. After consulting with a number of leading experts in the field, it was decided that an integrated extension and research program designed to reduce lameness in our herds was required.

In October 2008, producers, hoof trimmers, veterinarians, nutritionists, geneticists and researchers were invited to attend a workshop to gather consensus about how to deal with the lameness issue. Among the ideas discussed, it was agreed that the first step should be to set up a way to collect hoof lesion data in a consistent manner across a large number of farms. Since hoof trimmers are the ones that routinely observe claw lesions, their cooperation and input was solicited to achieve this goal.

Until recently, collection of hoof (claw) lesion data has been hampered by a lack of uniformity in the way lesions are identified. Last year (2008), at the 15th International Conference on Lameness in Ruminants (held in Kuopio, Finland), international experts agreed on a standardized system for claw lesion identification. With the cooperation of Zinpro Corporation, The International Lameness Committee produced a visual lesion identification guide in several formats. The essential content of the guide is described in the Lesion Identification section of this website.

Hoof SupervisorA second major step forward in efforts to collect consistent hoof lesion data has been the development of computerized lesion recording systems. A few of these were demonstrated at the (International) Hoof Trimmers’ Association Conference in Red Deer, Alberta in July 2008. Recognizing the potential of these systems to facilitate routine recording and capture of hoof lesion data, Alberta Milk decided to encourage hoof trimmers in the province to adopt this technology, through a financial incentive. After researching the alternatives, the system they settled on was Hoof Supervisor®, developed by KS Dairy Consulting of Dresser, Wisconsin.

In the Spring of 2009, all known hoof trimmers in the province were invited to attend an on-farm demonstration of the Hoof Supervisor® system where Alberta Milk's incentive plan and the potential involvement of the trimmers was explained. Seven trimmers agreed to participate and by early Summer all had purchased the systems with the help of funds contributed by Alberta Milk and Alberta Farm Animal Care. Use of these systems will help to assure uniformity in the identification of lesions and make it possible to accumulate consistent records from a large number of Alberta dairy herds.

On August 14, 2021 Alberta Milk sponsored a hoof trimmer clinic designed to assure that all trimmers were identifying lesions and their severity in a uniform manner. The supplier of the Hoof Supervisor® systems has cooperated by modifying the system software to accommodate consistent data collection using the international classification system. A further modification will facilitate data transfer to a central secure database.

In the late Fall of 2009, participating trimmers began soliciting their farmer clients to participate in the Project by agreeing to share both their trim records and DHI data. The objective of this phase of the Project is to discover relationships between hoof lesion prevalence and production, reproduction and health data in order to identify risk factors for lameness. Funding support for establishment of the database as well as data collection and analysis has been obtained from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program.

A subsequent phase of the Project (for which funding is currently being sought) will examine management and housing risk factors. Identification of risk factors will allow us to make management recommendations leading to reduced lameness prevalence in our dairy herds.