Lameness in dairy cattle is a major issue worldwide that affects animal welfare and management. Foot and claw disorders are the predominant cause of lameness, result in reduced milk production and reproductive performance, and rank high among the reasons for involuntary culling of cows, implying considerable impact on farm profitability.

In order to improve the health of feet and claws of dairy cattle, several countries have recently started to routinely record data, and many more countries are expected to launch recording programs in the near future. Harmonized definitions and standardized documentation are needed so that data can be compared over time and across countries, and the implementation of systems that allow usage of claw data for routine analyses requires participation from many different groups involved in dairy cattle production.

A diverse group of claw experts from around the world, including scientists, claw trimmers, bovine practitioners and geneticists, have produced a new standard for the identification and recording of foot and claw disorders that has been approved by the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) in June 2015.

Coordinated by the ICAR working group for functional traits and based on an inventory of existing recording systems for claw data, definitions and illustrations of the major foot and claw conditions in dairy cattle have been included in the ICAR Claw Health Atlas.

This summary reference is now available online in English (PDF, 2.8MB) and will be available in a wide range of languages from ICAR member countries. Hard copies of the atlas can be ordered from the ICAR office. The ICAR Claw Health Atlas will assist claw trimmers in identifying disorders, ensuring that, for example, a sole ulcer in Canada will be defined the same way as a sole ulcer in Germany, Norway and other countries using the new standard.


This support of comparisons of data collected in different countries by different groups using the same diagnostic system is a critical step in the targeted improvement of feet and claw health, which will benefit animal welfare and increase the efficiency and profitability of dairy enterprises.

The ICAR Claw Health Atlas is also available from the ICAR website. PD

—From International Committee for Animal Recording news release