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Development, testing and roll out of an online lameness recording system for sheep farmers

From our previous study ‘Development of a validated lameness control plan for sheep flocks’ we have identified that farmers who maintain accurate treatment records are far better at controlling lameness because they can plan and make strategic management decisions. We identified that many sheep farmers have and use smartphones. Consequently, we have designed a prototype smartphone application (app) that 37% of our farmers are finding very useful.

With funding from BVA-AWF and AHDB, we are developing this app further to collect data, analyse it and to present the data as farmer friendly reports. With information on their individual flock performance at regular intervals, farmers will be able to take appropriate action, for example, planned culling of repeatedly lame sheep and identifying an excessive number of cases of granulomas indicating over-trimming of feet. With summary information on other flocks, farmers will be able to benchmark themselves against national trends. Alongside this will be key electronic messages and information sheets as printable PDFs on how to manage lameness targeted to farmers based on their particular issues.

We are developing and test the app and online portal, and working with AHDB Beef & Lamb to hold focus groups and roll out the app to 16000 English sheep farmers.

We aim to calculate the effect of maintaining accurate treatment records on prevalence of lameness within a flock as well as the effect of using digital record keeping compared to traditional paper methods. We will use these results to estimate the potential impact of the app and online portal in the national flock and compare this to reported results from farmers using the system.

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Jessica Gaudy

School of Life Sciences

University of Warwick