Challenge description

Description of the Challenge Although It is possible for the body condition scoring (BCS) of cattle to be done automatically using sensors, capturing the BCS is still done manually and therefore infrequently. Sheep farmers would like to quantify BCS either by direct measurement or by approximation from another trait (e.g. weight).
Context

Body condition scoring is a very important management tool. Currently, to measure BCS the farmer must physically feel the back of each ewe and subjectively give them a score between 1 and 5. The ideal BCS is 3.5 at mating but fluctuates throughout the production year. A low BCS may indicate that the animal is lacking nutrition, is not capable of thriving in the current environment or that there is an underlying illness. Each animal naturally changes BCS during the year and it is the farmers job to ensure the animals are in the correct BCS at the correct time of year (e.g. a BCS of 3.5 at mating).

Fundamental requirements and constraints

Body condition score is measured by feeling the level of muscle and fat cover across the spine and short ribs. This is not visible with ordinary cameras due to the sheep’s wool. If there is no technology out there which could see through the wool, an alternative may be using the weight of the animal as a proxy. Each ewe could be weighed, and body condition scored at a set time each year and any fluctuation in her weight at other times of the year will be used to estimate her BCS at that time. Routine weighing of sheep is a process which is already conducted on farms in Ireland

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Country Ireland

Contact informations

Name of the organisation Sheep Ireland
Brief overview

Improving the genetic gain of the Irish sheep flock through improved selection

Website: www.Sheep.ie
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