New smart sensor to help farmers spot lameness in sheep

A smart wearable device that can automatically detect lameness in sheep is being developed by veterinary researchers at the University of Nottingham and industry partners Intel and Farm Wizard.

Lameness is the biggest health and welfare problem on sheep farms, costing the sector around £80m a year. More than 90 per cent of farmers in the UK report lameness in their flocks, most of which is caused by footrot, a bacterial infection. If spotted early enough in individual sheep, cases can be treated which in turn can prevent the problem spreading in the flock.

The new technical feasibility study and prototype tagging and monitoring system has been developed by Nottingham Vet School researcher, Associate Professor Jasmeet Kaler, 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. We are very excited as our first paper from this work has been accepted in the journal of Royal Society Open Science and will be available soon.”

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