Use of Thermal Imaging to Diagnose Lameness

Lameness is accepted as causing the biggest loss of income on dairy farms, and second only to mastitis as the leading cause of antibiotic use. It is also widely reported that lameness is under-diagnosed as in many studies ony 25% of lame cows are diagnosed. Observational detection is subjective, requires skill, and is time consuming so the low detection rates are understandable.

Technology, such as Cow Alert, has enabled automatic lameness scoring. Monitoring cows 24 hours per day, 7 days a week has resulted in a much higher detection rate. Indeed it often identifies lame cows at an earlier time than experienced stockpersons would. Thermal imaging cameras can be used to best effect to investigate the cause of lameness on these cows. They can differentiate between foul infections that require antibiotic treatment, and the majority of causes that don’t. Furthermore, thermal imaging can pinpoint the exact location of a sole ulcer enabling foot trimmers to be precise in their area of investigation. In early cases, it can even identify the lame foot, or establish that the cause of lameness is not in the foot.

The use of thermal imaging validates the lameness alerts of Cow Alert, and directs and motivates the stockman to treat the cow appropriately and at the earliest possible opportunity. It gives confidence that the hoof-knife is being used in the correct location, and will therefore locate ulcers/white line disease that would otherwise not be found. This improves animal wellbeing, reduces milk loss, and reduces the amount of antibiotics used.