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.
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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.