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Developing optimal approaches in the treatment and prevention of lameness is a significant challenge for the dairy industry. A range of clinical treatments are currently advocated for different causes of lameness (Blowey 2007). However, since treating cows requires restraining and lifting the feet of affected animals, it would be valuable to develop new screening methods for the identification of cows that are most likely to benefit from further investigation or treatment.
Infrared thermography has potential application in the clinical monitoring of inflammation (Head and Dyson 2001) and within animal welfare studies to identify indicators of stress (Stewart and others 2005). Both Whay and others (2004) and Munsell (2004) reported higher limb temperatures in lame, compared with non-lame dairy cows. Nikkah and others (2005) also reported an increased temperature at the coronary band of 16 early lactating cows possibly associated with sole lesions. Stokes and others (2012) demonstrated that the temperature of the plantar aspect of the hind feet was related to the presence of foot lesions including claw and digital dermatitis lesions. However, the technology used by Stokes and others (2012) was relatively expensive and fragile, making it unsuitable for use in the farm environment. Consequently, the aim of this preliminary study was to investigate the relationship between lesions and the skin temperature of the plantar surface of cows' feet using a low-cost hand-held infrared thermometer.
Cattle from six farms that were undergoing routine foot trimming were included in this study. An experienced foot trimmer, employed within a veterinary practice, assessed the temperature of the cow's feet immediately prior to routine claw trimming. Prior to lifting the limbs, but while the cattle were in a crush, the temperature of both hind feet was assessed using a low-cost infrared thermometer. The feet were not washed prior to recording temperature, as previous …
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