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Remote identification of sheep with flystrike using behavioural observations

Grant, E.P., Wickham, S.L., Anderson, F., Barnes, A.L.ORCID: 0000-0002-7227-230X, Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851 and Miller, D.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-4634-5819 (2019) Remote identification of sheep with flystrike using behavioural observations. Animals, 9 (6).

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Flystrike is a major problem affecting sheep in Australia. Identification of ‘flystruck’ individuals is crucial for treatment; but requires labour-intensive physical examination. As the industry moves toward more low-input systems; there is a need for remote methods to identify flystruck individuals. The aim of this study was to investigate the behaviour of sheep with breech flystrike within a paddock setting. Video footage of sixteen Merino sheep; eight later confirmed with flystrike and eight without; was collected as they moved freely within the paddock with conspecifics. Quantitative behavioural measurements and a qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA) were conducted and compared to their breech conditions (i.e., faecal/urine staining; flystrike severity). Both qualitative and quantitative assessments indicated behavioural differences between flystruck and non-flystruck animals. Flystruck sheep had a behavioural profile characterised by restless behaviour; abnormal postures and reduced grazing time (<i>p</i> < 0.05). Furthermore; flystruck sheep were scored to have a more ‘exhausted/irritated’ demeanour using QBA (<i>p</i> < 0.05). The behavioural responses also corresponded to the flystrike severity scores and condition of the breech area. We conclude that remotely assessed behaviour of flystruck sheep diverges markedly from non-flystruck sheep; and thus could be a low-input method for identifying and treating affected animals.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education
Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)
Copyright: © 2019 MDPI
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