Applicability of day-to-day variation in behavior for the automated detection of lameness in dairy cows

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Lameness is a major problem in modern dairy husbandry and has welfare implications and other negative consequences. The behavior of dairy cows is influenced by lameness. Automated lameness detection can, among other methods, be based on day-to-day variation in animal behavior. Activity sensors that measure lying time, number of lying bouts, and other parameters were used to record behavior per cow per day. The objective of this research was to develop and validate a lameness detection model based on daily activity data. Besides the activity data, milking data and data from the computerized concentrate feeders were available as input data. Locomotion scores were available as reference data. Data from up to 100 cows collected at an experimental farm during 23 mo in 2010 and 2011 were available for model development. Behavior is cow-dependent, and therefore quadratic trend models were fitted with a dynamic linear model on-line per cow for 7 activity variables and 2 other variables (milk yield per day and concentrate leftovers per day). It is assumed that lameness develops gradually; therefore, a lameness alert was given when the linear trend in 2 or more of the 9 models differed significantly from zero in a direction that corresponded with lameness symptoms. The developed model was validated during the first 4 mo of 2012 with almost 100 cows on the same farm by generating lameness alerts each week. Performance on the model validation data set was comparable with performance on the model development data set. The overall sensitivity (percentage of detected lameness cases) was 85.5% combined with specificity (percentage of nonlame cow-days that were not alerted) of 88.8%. All variables contributed to this performance. These results indicate that automated lameness detection based on day-to-day variation in behavior is a useful tool for dairy management
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3703-3712
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • lying behavior
  • locomotion score
  • hoof lesions
  • gait
  • cattle
  • assessments
  • system


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