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"Temperature maps" to monitor animal well-being


29 July 2012

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A new application for thermal imaging technology to monitor surface temperature gradients on animals has been developed by The Mississippi State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, US.

The resulting "temperature maps" allow users to monitor the health and well-being of their animals in a noninvasive way.

Peter L. Ryan, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Animal and Dairy Science, said the technology saves time and energy for animal caretakers. A simple color-based scale makes it easy to detect illnesses and ailments.

Originally developed by the military, thermal imaging technology has been used in industries such as manufacturing, engineering and energy. The equipment was repurposed by researchers at MSU working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ryan and other MSU researchers have found a wide variety of uses for thermal imaging instruments. The tools can be used to detect sick livestock, determine lameness in horses and even monitor foot health in elephants. The imaging technology can also be programmed to target specific areas of an animal or to detect a certain temperature.

While it can be effective, the technology has limitations. If the sun has been shining on an area, for example, the thermal readings might not be consistent. "We're as much about trying to find out how we can use thermography as we're also trying to find out what the boundaries are where we can't use it in a production setting," Scott Willard, associate professor at MSU, said.

Even when considering such limitations, both Ryan and Willard believe that thermal imaging could have a great impact in livestock-producing countries. The innovative approach could cut costs for the world’s leading producers of livestock, such as Brazil, China and India.

 
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