Locomotion of animals can be an indicator of animal health and welfare. In breeding programs, locomotion is often scored only once in a lifetime by human observers with a trained eye. Although these scores are accurate and repeatable, the Breed4Food companies wish to have objective scores for locomotion that can be recorded more often, preferably continuously in group housing. This way we can detect changes at a much earlier stage.
We invited two experts to broaden our knowledge about technologies to measure locomotion, Prof. Wim Back (Utrecht University) explained how they measure locomotion in horses using pressure plates that measure the distribution of pressure of the hoofs during the gait. Dr. Sjoerd Bruijn (VU Amsterdam) showed how to measure locomotion in humans using minimal sensors.
Both showed that cheaper options are quite accurate compared to the current best, but expensive, methods. It is possible that pressure plates can replace force plates, and Microsoft Kinect sensors can replace the expensive OptiTrack motion capture system. Also the small inertial measurement units, which can be attached to individuals, seem to be great for recording locomotion.
The challenge for Breed4Food is to find technologies that can be applied in practical situations. In addition, the raw measurements from these technologies need to be translated into a locomotion phenotype. New data mining techniques such as machine learning may be used.
We are interested to apply some of the technologies to turkeys to investigate which technologies can record their locomotion accurately enough to replace the human observer.