Low cost thermometer improves lameness detection

Published 19 December 12


A low-cost hand-held infrared thermometer could be used to better identify cows with hoof lesions while in the milking parlour, before they have to be restrained and their feet lifted. The £55 device - available from many online electrical stores - was able to identify cows with lesions ranging from white line disease to sole bruising in recent research from the University of Bristol, thanks to the higher hind hoof temperatures.  Read the full report

The technology was used to identify 167 lesions on a sample of 143 cows on six different dairy herds in Somerset. Of the 143 cows, approximately 28 per cent had no lesions, 47% had one lesion and 25% had two lesions. An experienced hoof trimmer used an infrared thermometer (see picture) to assess the temperature of the cows' feet immediately before routine trimming. The feet were not washed before the temperatures were taken as this was shown to affect foot temperature. The thermometer was held 15cm from the target area and the maximum temperature recorded.

There was significant variation in the temperature of healthy feet but the temperature of feet with lesions was 3.2°C higher on average than of feet without. There was a cross-over in the range of temperatures between feet with lesions (21.2°C to 37.3°C) and healthy feet (17.2°C to 28.7°C).  But if there was a temperature across both hind feet of above 25.25°C, then there was a 78% chance that this cow had a lesion.

The main lesion identified was white line disease, which accounted for 45 of the lesions observed. A total of 32 sole ulcers, 23 digital dermatitis lesions, 11 toe necrosis and 8 sole bruises were also recorded. Other conditions included sand crack, punctures and interdigital growth.  Read the full report