Body Condition Assessment Using Digital Images

J. D. Ferguson,*1 G. Azzaro,† and G. Licitra†‡

1- *University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square 19348
2- †Consorzio Ricerca Filiera Lattiero Casearia (CoRFiLaC), Ragusa, Italy
3- ‡University of Catania, Catania, Italy


This project assessed the ability to assign a body condition score (BCS) to a dairy cow from digital photographs or videos. Images were taken from the rear of the cow at a 0 to 20° angle relative to the tail head. Four observers assigned a BCS to each of 57 cows at a farm visit (live, farm 1) and later from a photograph (photo). Means ± standard deviations of BCS by method and observer were as follows: live = 3.25 ± 0.51, 3.42 ± 0.49, 3.32 ± 0.58, 3.13 ± 0.62; photo = 3.36 ± 0.52, 3.32 ± 0.43, 3.44 ± 0.62, 3.14 ± 0.6 for observers 1 to 4, respectively. Body condition score means differed across observers for live (observer 2 higher and observer 4 lower, compared with observers 1 and 3) and photo methods (observer 3 lower, compared with observers 1, 2, and 3); however, within bserver, the mean live BCS did not differ fromthe mean photo BCS. Correlation coefficients between BCS assigned live and from photos were 0.84, 0.82, .82, and 0.90 for observers 1 to 4, respectively. Subsequently, observer 1 visited 2 farms, assigned a live BCS, and digitally photographed 187 cows (56 and 131 cows from farms 2 and 3, respectively). Observers 2, 3, and 4 assigned a BCS from the photographs. Means ± standard deviations of BCS by observer method) were 1 (live) 3.35 ± 0.55; 2 (photo) 3.33 ± 0.49; 3 (photo) 3.60 ± 0.54; and 4 (photo) 3.26 ± 0.62. The mean BCS for observer 3 was higher and that for observer 4 was lower than for observers 1 and 2. Correlation coefficients between observer 1 and observers 2 through 4 were 0.78, 0.76, and 0.79, respectively. Observer 1 assigned a BCS to 41 cows at a farm visit and 3 wk later assessed the BCS of cows from a video taken at a farm visit by a different ndividual. Cows were restrained in headlocks at a feed bunk when assessing BCS and for video production. No difference was detected for the mean BCS, for the standard deviation of the mean BCS, or in the distribution of BCS between the live and video assessments. Mean and SD for 17 groups of Holstein cows from 20 farms were used to generate 10,000 random samples of BCS. Groups of 25, 50, 100, and 150 cows were created from the random samples, and estimates of mean BCS were determined by sampling 3 to 80% of the group. Estimates of mean BCS with a sample size of 30% or more from a group of cows fell within the 95% confidence limit of the true mean more than 98% of the time. Digital photographs provide adequate imaging for assessment of BCS. Sampling 30% of a group should be adequate to assess the mean BCS. Video imaging allowed a rapid assessment of BCS but did not permit identification of individual cows.

Keywords: body condition score, dairy cattle, digital imaging

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Jim D. Ferguson

Prof. University of Pennsylvania (USA)