Automated lameness monitor for dairy cows

Author: Deborah Piette & Tomas Norton (KUL) - January 18, 2018

Lameness is defined as a deviation in gait and posture resulting from pain or discomfort from hoof or leg injuries. Lameness is very painful and has a negative impact on health, welfare and milk production. The disease affects roughly a third of dairy cows and is estimated to cost approximately 75 euros per cow per year. 

Click to enlarge picture. 

The problem of lameness in dairy farms is often underestimated, which is probably due to insufficiently trained staff and high workload: there is no time to observe every cow. Needless to say that an automated tool to detect lameness could prove useful. 

At KU Leuven a prototype lameness monitor has been developed that is based on camera technology. Cows walk under a camera after milking. An algorithm analyses the curvature of the cows’ backs and decides whether or not the cows are lame. A straight back means that the cow is healthy, an arched back indicates a lameness problem. Cows that are lame appear on a warning list that is sent to the farmer so he can take action. The prototype system still needs further development and is not available on the market yet.