Cattle suffering from inflammatory infection display sickness and pain-related behaviours. As these behaviours may be transient and last only a few hours, one may miss them. The aim of this study was to assess the benefit of combining continuous monitoring of cow behaviour via collar-attached accelerometers with direct visual observations to detect sickness and pain-related behavioural responses after a systemic inflammatory challenge (intravenous lipopolysaccharide injection) in cows of two different ages, proven by clinical, physiological and blood parameters. Twelve cloned Holstein cows (six 'old' cows aged 10-15 years old and six 'young' cows aged 6 years old) were challenged and either directly observed at five time-points from just before the lipopolysaccharide injection up to 24 h post-injection (hpi) or continuously monitored using collar-attached accelerometers in either control or challenge situations. Direct observations identified specific sickness and pain behaviours (apathy, changes in facial expression and body posture, reduced motivation to feed) expressed partially at 3 hpi and fully at 6 hpi. These signs of sickness and pain behaviours then faded, and quicker for the young cows. Accelerometers detected changes in basic activities (low ingesting, low ruminating, high inactivity) and position (high time standing up) earlier and over a longer period of time than direct observations. The combination of sensors and direct observations improved the detection of behavioural signs of sickness and pain earlier on and over the whole study period, even when direct signs were weak especially in young cows. This system could provide great benefit for better earlier animal care.