Thermal imaging aiding dairy cow management

The KuNa project involves studying the potential of thermal imaging as a tool for evaluating the health status of dairy cows. On the basis of the project outcomes, guidelines will be compiled for the thermal imaging of cattle and interpretation of images. As the size of livestock herds grow, effective tools for monitoring farm animal welfare are valuable.

The Kuvaa Nautaa - KuNa (thermal imaging aiding dairy cow management) project, launched in January 2018, is examining the potential of thermal imaging as a tool for evaluating the health status of dairy cows, and developing guidelines for imaging on farms and the interpretation of results.“The three-year project will create a tool for cattle farmers, enabling them to identify problems affecting the surface temperature of the animal, such as hoof diseases and mastitis,” says Salla Ruuska, Project Manager.

“The idea for the project came from an innovative milk producer who experimented with a rented thermal camera in the cowhouse.” The experiment resulted in the question of whether a thermal camera could be used more extensively in the cowhouse. Thermal imaging may actually provide an excellent tool for monitoring the health and wellbeing of cattle. Early detection of health problems ensures rapid treatment and reduces costs.“Efficient aids are required for monitoring the health and welfare of production animals, particularly as the herd sizes keep growing. Project results will benefit most parties working with cattle, including cattle farmers, veterinarians and hoof care specialists. However, clear instructions are necessary for thermal imaging, particularly for the interpretation of the images,” says Ruuska.

Six cattle farms, which test the possibilities of the cameras in practice, and the instructions developed for their use, are central to the project. In addition to the farms, Savonia University of Applied Sciences and Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke, and experts in many fields, including scientists, veterinarians and engineers, are involved in the project. Thermal imaging will begin in Luke's research cowhouses in the autumn 2018. Simultaneously, instructions for imaging and interpretation of the images will be prepared for the six cattle farms for testing. The instructions will be developed further on the basis of feedback from entrepreneurs.

The farms involved in the project not only conduct tests and engage in further development, but contribute actively to the distribution of information and inform their peers about the possibilities of imaging. Project results will be developed into e-materials, which will be published on the project’s website. Project progress can also be tracked on Facebook.

The project is one of the agricultural innovation groups selected in 2017 (EIP).

Further information: Project Manager manager Salla Ruuska, Savonia University of Applied Sciences: firstname.lastname (at) savonia.fi

Date updated: Feb 17, 2020