According to the University of Nottingham, over 90 percent of sheep farmers in the UK report lameness in their flocks. This is due mainly to a bacterial infection known as footrot – as with just about any other malady, the sooner it's treated, the better. That's why the university has developed a sensor that detects lameness before it's visually obvious.

Sheep have evolved to hide disabilities that will make them easier pickings for predators. This means that when they have conditions such as footrot, they'll resist showing any signs of lameness as long as possible. By the time that they are visibly lame, the infection has progressed far enough that it may have already spread to other sheep in the flock.

That's where the sensor comes in.

Designed in partnership with Intel and agricultural software developer Farm Wizard, it's attached to the sheep's ear tag. It utilizes an accelerometer and gyroscope to gather data on the animal's behaviour, movement and gait. That data is processed using custom algorithms, and an alert is wirelessly transmitted to the farmer if early signs of lameness are detected.

"I think what is very novel about this technology is that it utilizes edge processing, which means it doesn't necessarily need to send all the data to the cloud because it does the thinking on the device," says the lead scientist, associate professor Jasmeet Kaler. "This is an advantage when it comes to battery life. We are currently validating the results in a larger trial and we hope the technology will be available after some further work."

Source: University of Nottingham