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News Article

Smart sensor to help spot lameness in sheep

Automated behavioural classification and identification through sensors has the potential to improve health and welfare of animals.

A smart wearable device that can automatically detect lameness in sheep is being developed by veterinary researchers at the University of Nottingham with industry partners. The first paper from this project is published in Royal Society Open Science.

As sheep are a ‘prey’ species they are likely to mask signs of lameness when they feel threatened, or enlivened by the presence of observing farmers and vets. It means that up to now, diagnosis has been difficult and relies on visual inspection because there are no validated commercial tools available.

The prototype tagging and monitoring system has been developed by Nottingham Vet School researcher, Associate Professor Jasmeet Kaler, together with Intel and Farm Wizard.

Dr Kaler said: “Our new system is a smart device – a wearable technology that we hope will be a game-changing investment for sheep farmers and a first for the industry. It consists of a sensing device worn on a sheep’s ear tag that gathers accelerometer and gyroscope data effectively tracking the animal’s behaviour and movement, as well as its gait. The algorithms we have developed are used to create different alerts for farmers. So far they have provided high accuracy in predicting various behaviours of the sheep, including differentiating lameness.

"I think what is very novel about this technology is that it utilises edge processing which means it doesn't necessarily need to send all the data to the Cloud because it does the thinking on the device. This is an advantage when it comes to battery life. We are currently validating the results in a larger trial and we hope the technology will be available after some further work.”

Dr Kaler’s previous research has found that to date only around 20% of farmers are able to spot and treat lameness in sheep early. It was also found that the prevalence of lameness caused by footrot was much lower in groups of sheep where individual sheep had been treated early with parenteral and topical antibiotics.

The sheep lameness smart sensor project has been funded by Innovate UK and the BBSRC.

Read article: Evaluation of sampling frequency, window size and sensor position for classification of sheep behaviour by Emily Walton, Christy Casey, Jurgen Mitsch, Jorge A. Vázquez-Diosdado, Juan Yan, Tania Dottorini, Keith A. Ellis, Anthony Winterlich and Jasmeet Kaler, published in Royal Society Open Science, online 7 February 2018

Article details

  • Date
  • 20 February 2018
  • Source
  • University of Nottingham
  • Subject(s)
  • Food Animals