Early Detection Aids

There are several technological devices now marketed that aim to automatically measure mobility levels in the herd and warn farm staff about new cases of lameness in the early stages where few symptoms may be present, but where early treatment would result in the fewest possible productive losses and the best chance of recovery.

Pressure sensing platforms can be installed in parlour exit races, which automatically identify individual cows passing through them and analyse and 'score' the cow's steps - measuring their force and duration - to monitor the cow's gait as she leaves the parlour for any early signs of lameness.

This data is them transferred to a PC, where specially-designed software can produce reports for individual cows, cow groups or the whole herd. It aids in identifying lame cows, can pinpoint trends in lameness such as the groups affected, the housing areas most affected and can also monitor the progress and success of treatments.

Other motion-sensing systems introduced primarily to monitor oestrus levels in housed herds can have a secondary function in identifying cows whose mobility patterns change over a period of time.

These  technologies utilise pedometers strapped to the leg of an animal to measure the number of steps to detect the increase in movement during oestrus, or 'necometers' attached to the neck of an animal to detect increased head movement during oestrus, and are primarily used to detect oestrus levels by comparing current movement levels with an individual cow's rolling average.

In terms of mobility they may be useful in detecting a decrease in activity due to lameness, particularly when linked to milk recording systems that measure changes in milk yield levels that help to identify where any change in mobility and movement patterns are due to either bulling activity or illness.

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