Monitoring activity patterns of animals offers the opportunity to assess individual health and welfare in support of precision livestock farming. The purpose of this study was to use a triaxial accelerometer sensor to determine the diel activity of sheep on pasture. Six Perendale ewe lambs, each fitted with a neck collar mounting a triaxial accelerometer, were filmed during targeted periods of sheep activities: grazing, lying, walking, and standing. The corresponding acceleration data were fitted using a Random Forest algorithm to classify activity (=classifier). This classifier was then applied to accelerometer data from an additional 10 ewe lambs to determine their activity budgets. Each of these was fitted with a neck collar mounting an accelerometer as well as two additional accelerometers placed on a head halter and a body harness over the shoulders of the animal. These were monitored continuously for three days. A classification accuracy of 89.6% was achieved for the grazing, walking and resting activities (i.e., a new class combining lying and standing activity). Triaxial accelerometer data showed that sheep spent 64% (95% CI 55% to 74%) of daylight time grazing, with grazing at night reduced to 14% (95% CI 8% to 20%). Similar activity budgets were achieved from the halter mounted sensors, but not those on a body harness. These results are consistent with previous studies directly observing daily activity of pasture-based sheep and can be applied in a variety of contexts to investigate animal health and welfare metrics e.g., to better understand the impact that young sheep can suffer when carrying even modest burdens of parasitic nematodes.
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