Genetics of shelly hoof


The knowledge of the genetic basis to poor horn structure leading to the expression of shelly hoof probably indicates that there are structural properties of the hoof that predispose them to the condition, which in the long term can be solved through genetic selection. 

Beef & Lamb
Project code:
01 August 2008 - 30 September 2009
AHDB Beef & Lamb
Project leader:
Scottish Agricultural College


73401 Final Report 2010

About this project

The Problem:

Work has shown that shelly hoof was a major problem for some flocks, with some farms having more than 50% (up to 76% for one flock) of their ewes with at least one hoof affected. Very little is known about the causes of shelly hoof in sheep, and it is not known if it is important in the occurrence of lameness. Work in Wales has shown that producers may be mis-diagnosing shelly hoof for footrot, which has consequences in terms of treatment. There is considerable evidence in other species (e.g. horses) that such hoof disorders are largely due to nutritional and other environmental influences.


Project Aims:

  1. To further our knowledge and understanding of shelly hoof
  2. To inform us for future control strategy implementation
  3. To lead to further developments to ascertain the link between lameness and shelly hoof



As part of a LINK-funded project on breeding for resistance to footrot, blood samples were taken from pedigreed animals and hooves were scored for foot problems. This project provides an opportunity to investigate if shelly hoof is under any degree of genetic control through implementing genetic analyses for shelly hoof in three breeds of sheep (Texel, Mule and Blackface). Some nutritional diagnostic procedures will be used to confirm whether or not it is implicated as being a major influence in the cause of shelly hoof.



The results will be used to complement the data from the LINK- funded breeding for footrot resistance project. It may be included in future BRP information of lameness on the identification, causes and treatment of lameness disorders.