In a groundbreaking collaboration, Dr. Robert Sutherland (Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience), alongside Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed (Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed Inc.), Dr. Karen Schwartkopf-Genswein (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Dr. Majid Mohajerani (Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience), Hardeep S. Ryait (Postdoctoral Fellow - CCBN), and Paula Olivares Guzman (Postdoctoral Fellow - CCBN), have embarked on a transformative research project aimed at revolutionizing the management of lameness in beef cattle.

Dr. Donkersgoed reveals that the partnership with the University of Lethbridge materialized through recommendations from a research colleague and the support of Alberta Innovates. This research is bolstered by both Mitacs Accelerate and the Alberta Innovates Agri-Food and Bioindustrial Innovation Program. The collaboration emerged as a strategic response to address the challenges associated with the diagnosis and management of lameness, the second most prevalent disease in feedlots and ranches.

As a feedlot veterinarian, Dr. Donkersgoed emphasizes the difficulties faced in the early diagnosis of lameness and the subsequent determination of which animals can be shipped in compliance with federal transportation regulations. The project, therefore, focuses on developing a user-friendly lameness app for smartphones. This tool aims to provide consistent and objective measurements of lameness severity, assisting various stakeholders, including producers, veterinarians, truckers, auction market staff, processors, and inspection staff.

Dr. Donkersgoed envisions that the completion of this project will yield a valuable decision-making tool for determining the fitness of animals for transport. The overarching goal is to enhance the overall understanding and management of lameness in individual animals.

In response to inquiries about advice for those considering similar research partnerships, Dr. Donkersgoed emphasizes the importance of allowing ample time for contractual arrangements and postdoctoral recruitment. Practical insights from the field lay the foundation for successful collaborations.

Excitement mounts as Dr. Donkersgoed contemplates the potential success of the lameness app. If the application proves effective, plans include expanding its scope to explore diagnosing different causes of lameness in beef cattle. The future also holds the promise of applying AI research to the early identification of bovine respiratory disease and histophilosis in feedlot cattle.

While the collaborative research with the University is in its early stages, the project's potential implications and value to the wider community will become clearer as the research progresses.

This innovative partnership showcases the power of collaboration between industry experts and academic institutions, providing a beacon of hope for more effective and timely humane practices in the management of cattle health. Stay tuned as this pioneering research unfolds, potentially reshaping the future of cattle care.

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