Optimising lameness detection in dairy cattle by using handheld infrared thermometers

Yi Chun Lin*, Siobhan Mullan, David C.J. Main

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
399 Downloads (Pure)


Lameness is one of the most serious economic and welfare issues in the dairy industry. Early detection of lameness can be difficult, but provision of early treatment is crucial. Previous studies have used infrared thermography to show that increased foot temperature (FT) is associated with lameness and foot lesions. However, poor accuracy has limited the management application potential. This study analysed ambient-temperature (AT)-adjusted foot-surface temperatures and temperature differences between the hind feet of individual cows to enhance lameness detection. Cow FTs were recorded on a 990-cow farm using an infrared thermometer fortnightly for 6 months. Additionally, mobility level was scored using the AHDB Dairy 4-point scale. The averages of FTs and ATs were 23.83 ± 0.03°C and 13.99 ± 1.60°C, respectively. The FT of cows with lameness was significantly higher than that of cows without lameness (P < 0.001). Increases in FTs correlated with the mobility score (MS) (P < 0.001). According to receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves, the optimal threshold based on actual FTs was 23.3°C with 78.5% sensitivity and 39.2% specificity. However, the ROC curve for the AT-adjusted FT and FT difference parameters showed minimal improvements over the FT in detecting lameness. In conclusion, the infrared thermometer results demonstrated the association between elevated FTs and lameness, but further improvements to this detection technique will be required before it can be implemented as a management tool for detecting cows that could benefit from treatment. With additional validation, the technique could be used as a screening device to identify cows in need of further assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-226
Number of pages9
JournalVeterinary Medicine and Science
Issue number3
Early online date29 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • animal welfare
  • cattle
  • lameness


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