Deciphering the microbiome of infectious lameness causing lesions in dairy cattle


AWF Research Fund



Research Period


Area of study

Student Research


Investigator(s): Bethany Griffiths

Supervisor(s): Dr Georgios Oikonomou

Lameness is undoubtedly one of the most critical challenges the dairy industry faces today. The condition is debilitating and painful, and described as one of the clearest indicators of compromised welfare in dairy cattle. The condition is also associated with hyperalgesia meaning that cows with chronic lameness are prone to exaggerated sensitivity to pain (Whay et al. 1998). No other common condition is associated with such visible signs of pain and, as such, cow lameness damages the public's perception of the industry (Bicalho and Oikonomou 2013; Grandin 2014).
The microbiota is the community of microbes found in an environment or sample. For this project, the microbiota of lameness causing foot lesions in dairy cattle will be characterised. A sterile swab will be used to collect a sample of the microbes found within a foot lesion. The genetic content of this lesion will then be analysed to allow identification of all the microbes present. This will allow identification of microbes involved in infectious foot lesions (other than digital dermatitis) and those microbes that are complicating, or causing secondary infections in non-infectious foot lesions.
Potential impacts of this project include the ability to better target treatments of foot lesions, which can reduce the potential for antimicrobial resistance to develop, reduce the treatment time, and reduce the time cows may feel discomfort. Further information about the cause and development of these lesions would allow us to better tackle lesions at their source and may contribute to the prevention of some lameness causing lesions. Improved targeting of treatment may also result in better long-term prognoses, better animal welfare and reduced financial costs to the farmer.
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Watch Bethany Griffiths present at the 2018 Discussion Forum


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