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Investigating host genetic factors in bovine digital dermatitis
  1. R. A. Scholey, BSc, PhD1,2,
  2. R. W. Blowey, BSc, BVSc, FRCVS3,
  4. R. F. Smith, BVSc, BSc, PhD, DipECAR, MRCVS4,
  5. J. Cameron, OND, HNC4,
  6. J. P. Massey, BSc, PhD5,
  7. W. E. Ollier, BSc, PhD, FRCPath, FIBMS5 and
  8. S. D. Carter, BSc, PhD, FIMLS, FRCPath1
  1. 1School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool Science Park IC2, 146 Brownlow Hill, Liverpool, L3 5RF, UK
  2. 2Dr Scholey's present address is Department of Genetic Medicine, University of Manchester, St Mary's Hospital, 6th Floor, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL, UK
  3. 3Wood Veterinary Group, Quedgeley, Gloucester, GL2 4NB, UK
  4. 4School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Neston, Cheshire CH64 7TE, UK
  5. 5Centre for Integrated Genomic Medical Research, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK;
  1. E-mail for correspondence: rachel.scholey{at}

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Bovine digital dermatitis (BDD), identified in the UK in 1988 (Blowey and Sharp 1988), is an infectious bacterial lameness of the bovine hind foot. BDD susceptibility and outcome is well known to be influenced by environmental factors, such as farm hygiene and housing conditions (Somers and others 2003, Onyiro and others 2008, Barker and others 2009). In recent years, it has been suggested the disease might be linked to a range of other ‘non-healing’ hoof disorders (Evans and others 2011). In our experience, anecdotal opinion from farmers and veterinary physicians suggests considerable variation in how individual cattle within a herd are affected; some are recurrently and severely affected, whereas others are apparently unaffected. This generates the hypothesis that when environmental conditions are suitable, host genetic factors might predispose an individual to developing BDD. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a study using a panel of well-phenotyped Holstein cattle and genome screening with single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarrays, and subsequent targeted SNP genotyping.

Animals were identified using longitudinal observations on three commercial Holstein dairy herds, endemic with BDD, in England and Wales. Observations were conducted on five occasions between four and six months in order to identify animals which were deemed to be chronically affected or apparently unaffected by BDD. The hind feet were examined by veterinary physicians (RWB and RFS) experienced in identifying clinical signs of BDD lesions. Holsteins were chosen for inclusion if they were severely affected (large chronic/active …

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