Lameness in dairy cows causes significant losses in dairy production and is an important animal welfare issue. The overall size increase of dairy establishments and the subjectivity of lameness scoring mean that farmers possibly recognise only a relatively small percentage of lame animals in their herd. Lameness recognition is often only recognised when the underlying pathological process is already well advanced, causing higher veterinary treatment costs, loss of milk yield and pain for the animal.
The purpose of a current project at the Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture, Germany is to expand on the results of a previous project, which demonstrated that the association between various automatically recorded performance and activity parameters could be used to detect lameness in dairy cattle. The pedometers (“Track a Cow”, ENGS Corporation, Israel) used in said project are able to measure lying behaviour through accelerometers and feeding behaviour by identifying cows at the feeding bins by way of an induction loop. The same pedometers have recently been updated and are to be used in the current project. Therefore the technology’s reliability and validity will be evaluated.
At the same time as the validation the data collected by the ENGS “Track a Cow” (“TAC”) pedometers will be compared to that collected by the more cost intensive “ALT” (Activity-Lying-Temperature, IBS Ing.Büro Schleusener, Mixdorf, Germany) tags which have been used successfully for many years, in order to evaluate the cost-benefit ratio of both devices.