Genetic analysis of feet and leg conformation traits in Nelore cattle

J Anim Sci. 2017 Jun;95(6):2379-2384. doi: 10.2527/jas.2016.1327.


Feet and leg conformation scores are important traits in beef cattle because they encompass a wide range of locomotion disorders that can lead to productive and reproductive losses. Thus, the study of feet and legs in beef cattle is essential for evaluating possible responses to selection focusing on minimizing economic losses caused by the occurrence of feet and leg problems. The aim of this study was to estimate variance components for feet and leg conformation traits in Nelore cattle. The data set contained records of approximately 300,000 animals that were born between 2000 and 2013. These animals belonged to the commercial beef cattle breeding program of the CRV Lagoa (). Feet and legs were evaluated by assigning visual scores at 2 different time points: feet and leg evaluated as a binary trait (FL1), measured at yearling (about 550 d of age) to identify whether (or not) an animal has feet and leg defects, and feet and leg score (FL2), ranging from 1 (less desirable) to 5 (more desirable) was assigned to the top 20% of animals according to the selection index adopted by the beef cattle breeding program, which was measured 2 to 5 mo after the yearling evaluation. The FL1 and FL2 traits were analyzed together with yearling weight (YW). The (co)variance components and breeding values were estimated by Bayesian inference using 2-trait animal models. The posterior means (standard errors) of the heritabilities for FL1, FL2, and YW were 0.18 (0.04), 0.39 (0.07), and 0.47 (0.01), respectively. The results indicate that the incidence of feet and leg problems in this population might be reduced by selection. The genetic correlation between FL1 and FL2 (-0.47) was moderate and negative as expected because the classification score that holds up each trait has opposite numerical values. The genetic trends estimated for FL1 and FL2 (-0.042 and 0.021 genetic standard deviations per year, respectively) were favorable and they indicate that the independent culling strategy for feet and leg problems promotes favorable changes and contributes to the genetic progress of these traits in the population under study.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Body Weight
  • Breeding
  • Cattle / anatomy & histology
  • Cattle / genetics*
  • Female
  • Forelimb / anatomy & histology*
  • Genotype
  • Hindlimb / anatomy & histology*
  • Hoof and Claw / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Phenotype