Increasing sheep welfare with thermal imaging

When something isn’t working optimally, excess heat is commonly a tell-tale sign. This simple fact has led thermal imaging to become an important inspection tool in many industries including dairy farming.

The National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) reports the cost of mastitis to farmers is between £70 and £250 per cow per annum. Thermal imaging is proving highly effective in automated milking parlours for the early detection of mastitis in cows and providing cost savings to farmers. Indeed, the ability of a thermal camera to ‘see’ inflammation in this way is being considered for detection of other diseases in farmed animals such as sheep.

Ongoing university research is evaluating the use of thermal imaging to address lameness in sheep. Aside from the welfare concern, lameness causes significant financial loss. According to NADIS, the problem currently costs UK farmers £28m per annum. The main cause of lameness is a bacterial hoof infection and early detection is not only essential to lessening the severity of the symptoms and other health issues, but also to preventing its spread throughout the flock.

To manage and minimise the problem, farmers routinely gather and pen their sheep to examine their hooves. Those showing signs of lameness are then separated and treated appropriately. This is both a time-consuming task and one that can be distressing for the animals.

To find a solution the university is working with Stanbury’s, a company that primarily specialises in building surveying and estate management. Thermal imaging is vital to its efficient diagnosis of faults in building fabric. This experience has led the company to diversify into the provision of thermography services and Flir infrared camera sales in other industries.

“A thermal imaging camera is designed to detect infrared energy and build a picture based on the different temperatures emitted by the target,” explained Allister Pirrie, a level 2 thermographer with Stanbury’s. “It is a non-contact technology that can be used effectively over distance and has great potential in farming applications.”

To measure temperature accurately over distance depends on several factors with two of the most important being the resolution of the detector and the chosen camera lens. Stanbury’s therefore recommended the Flir E85 for the sheep foot-rot detection research.

The Flir E85 is a hand-held thermal imaging camera with intelligent interchangeable lenses, laser-assisted autofocus modes and area measurement functionality.  The company’s patented MSX image enhancement technology is standard on the Flir E85 as it includes UltraMax, an embedded super-resolution process that improves effective resolution by four times and thermal sensitivity by up to 50%.

Pirrie concluded: “Initial trials have gone brilliantly. The FLIR E85 has consistently provided fast and effective spot diagnosis of sheep while they are grazing in the field. This allows the vet to spot trauma at a distance and localise an individual for examination and as it is a non-invasive and non-contact method, there is no distress to the animal.”

Trials are on-going and it has already become evident that the benefits of thermal imaging could extend beyond initial diagnosis of foot disease. The Flir E85 is now also being evaluated as a non-invasive method for observing how sheep are responding to treatment for injuries and disease. This means that the animals do not have to be penned, enhancing their welfare and saving farmers costs.

Teledyne FLIR

2 Kings Hill Avenue
Kings Hill,
ME19 4AQ

+44 (0)1732 220011

More products
Individual service for signal integrity
The demands on connection technology performance are constantly increasing. By providing customised support, Phoenix Contact helps customers select connection components to ensure the highest possible signal integrity.
Aveva MES rises in the leader ranks of the latest Gartner report
Aveva’s Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) offering, which is deployed in the UK & Ireland by AVEVA Select partners SolutionsPT, has been recognised as a global leader in industrial software in the latest 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems.
Siemens selected by Microsoft for RAMP Programme
Siemens Digital Industries Software has been selected to participate in the Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes (RAMP) Phase II initiative.
Thomson Industries exhibits linear actuators for the marine industry
Thomson Industries will be exhibiting at the 30th Shipbuilding, Machinery and Marine Technology (SMM) trade fair in Hamburg in September, showcasing its comprehensive line of electric linear actuators for marine applications.
Harwin and MSA Components sign German distribution deal
Harwin is bringing greater strength to its German supply chain through a new strategic partnership with MSA Components. The agreement allows MSA to offer all the latest products from Harwin’s extensive portfolio.
Mould making at Emka for injection moulding of plastics and metals
Emka reports that it is now one of the top three mould makers in Europe – producing 900 moulds a year for plastic injection, including polyamide/glass and Grivery, as well as zinc and aluminium die casting.
Kontron receives VDC Research’s Gold Award for vendor satisfaction
Kontron has been recognised for outstanding customer satisfaction. The company has received the Gold Vendor Satisfaction Award for IoT and Embedded Hardware technology from VDC Research.
Mouser wins Vishay Distributor of the Year Award
Mouser Electronics has received the 2021 High Service Distributor of the Year award from Vishay Intertechnology, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of discrete semiconductors and passive electronic components.
What changes does the new machinery regulation bring?
As the machinery regulation replaces machinery directive 2006/42/EC, Dirk Meyer, specialist engineer solution architect at Eaton, looks at what is changing.
Klüber Lubrication receives Schaeffler Supplier Award 2022
Schaeffler has awarded Klüber Lubrication with the Supplier Award 2022 in the field of quality. The jury emphasised in particular the global supplier's strong commitment to the compliance with quality standards.

Login / Sign up