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Animals 2015, 5(3), 512-535; doi:10.3390/ani5030369

Digital Dermatitis in Dairy Cows: A Review of Risk Factors and Potential Sources of Between-Animal Variation in Susceptibility

Institute for Global Food Security, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, 18-30 Malone Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT9 5BN, UK
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Academic Editor: Jon Huxley
Received: 5 June 2015 / Revised: 1 July 2015 / Accepted: 2 July 2015 / Published: 13 July 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dairy Cow Mobility and Lameness)
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Simple Summary

Dairy cow lameness is a major problem for the industry, causing reduced animal welfare and economic loss. Digital dermatitis (DD) is a bacterial disease causing painful lesions, generally on the heels of the rear feet, and is an important cause of lameness. There appears to be individual variation between animals in susceptibility to this disease. Particular physical, physiological and behavioural factors might influence individual susceptibility, but further work is required to clarify the influence of these factors and to determine how this information could be used to develop breeding and management strategies to reduce DD prevalence.

Abstract

Digital dermatitis (DD) is a bacterial disease that primarily affects the skin on the heels of cattle. It is a major cause of lameness in dairy cows and a significant problem for the dairy industry in many countries, causing reduced animal welfare and economic loss. A wide range of infection levels has been found on infected farms, prompting investigations into both farm level and animal level risk factors for DD occurrence. There also appears to be individual variation between animals in susceptibility to the disease. The identification of factors affecting individual variation in susceptibility to DD might allow changes in breeding policies or herd management which could be used to reduce DD prevalence. Factors mentioned in the literature as possibly influencing individual variation in susceptibility to DD include physical factors such as hoof conformation and properties of the skin, physiological factors such as the efficacy of the immune response, and behavioural factors such as standing half in cubicles. Further work is required to determine the influence of these factors, identify the genetic basis of variation, clarify the level of heritability of DD susceptibility and to determine how this is correlated with production and health traits currently used in breeding programmes. View Full-Text
Keywords: digital dermatitis; dairy cow; lameness; susceptibility digital dermatitis; dairy cow; lameness; susceptibility
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Palmer, M.A.; O'Connell, N.E. Digital Dermatitis in Dairy Cows: A Review of Risk Factors and Potential Sources of Between-Animal Variation in Susceptibility. Animals 2015, 5, 512-535.

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