Free computerised lameness detection available soon

A diagnostic computer model identifying specific stages of digital dermatitis (DD) lesions at no cost to the farmer is expected to be available this summer.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are compiling a growing corpus of images and videos from hoof trimmers, researchers and herd managers, to produce the as-yet unnamed programme.

The project, led by DD epidemiologist and expert Dr Doerte Dopfer, from the University, aims to provide a free DD diagnosis and mobility scoring service for beef and dairy farms via ‘computer-vision models’.

See also: Expert advice on controlling digital dermatitis

In an empowering address to the 2019 UK Cattle Lameness Conference in Liverpool last week (11-12 April), Dr Dopfer said: “The industry should join forces in collecting and sharing as many videos of cows as possible.

“We need to make these models available before someone monopolises it – it must be free.”

The aim is for DD lesions to be scanned by a phone and automatically scored according to the stage of the lesion (M-stage).

A second element of the app will automatically score cow mobility as cows walk in front of a smartphone. 

Pooling data

Charlie Harding, Shropshire-based foot trimmer and director of cow hoof trimming and freeze branding specialist Hoofman, told Farmers Weekly that correctly identifying the M-stage of a DD case could save on treatments, antibiotics and cure more lame cows.

Mr Harding has been capturing videos and images himself and gathering data from other trimmers to aid app development.

“This could be a massive step forward in animal welfare and unnecessary antibiotic usage,” he said. “And while the initiative is starting with DD, there’s no reason why, in time, it couldn’t develop to detect other lameness issues and lesions.”