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Publication - Professor Toby Knowles

    Lameness assessment with automatic monitoring of activity in commercial broiler flocks


    Silvera, A, Knowles, T, Butterworth, A, Berckmans, D, Vranken, E & Blokhuis, H, 2017, ‘Lameness assessment with automatic monitoring of activity in commercial broiler flocks’. Poultry Science.


    The possibility of using automatic recordings of broiler chicken activity in commercial flocks to assess the birds´ walking ability (lameness) was investigated. Data were collected from five commercial broiler farms in four European countries, using 16 flocks and 33 assessment occasions. Lameness was assessed using established gait scoring (GS) methods (Kestin et al. 1992, Welfare Quality 2009) and took place at 3, 4 and 5 weeks of age. Gait score (GS) was used to assess the birds walking ability and automatic recordings of bird activity were collected using the eYeNamic ™-camera system before, during and after an assessor walked through the house. The variables used to predict the level of GS extracted from the camera system were: baseline activity, time from assessor leaving the house to resumption of baseline activity, average activity over that period, and ∆ Amplitude (difference between highest activity peak after assessor left the house and baseline level). Age (< 0.001) and ∆ Amplitude (p =0.0002) were significantly related to GS, with the gait getting poorer with increased age and ∆ Amplitude decreasing with declining walking ability. Both measures are thus included in a predictive equation. The results demonstrate a potential method using image analysis techniques to realize an automated assessment of the level of lameness in commercial broiler flocks. This could be of use in future animal welfare assessment schemes.

    Full details in the University publications repository