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  • Author: S.M. Waters x
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Electronic feeding behavioural data as indicators of health status in dairy calves

Abstract

The objectives of this study were (i) to characterise clinical health in dairy calves on an Irish research farm during the artificial calf-rearing period and (ii) to determine whether calves’ pre-weaning intakes and feeding behaviour, recorded by electronic calf feeders, changes in response to incidents of bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Holstein-Friesian (H-F) and Jersey (J) calves were fed by automatic milk replacer (MR) and concentrate feeders. Feeding behaviour, including MR consumption, drinking speed, number of rewarded and unrewarded visits to the feeder as well as concentrate consumption, was recorded by the feeders. A modified version of the Wisconsin calf health scoring criteria chart was used to score calves’ clinical measurements and identify incidences of BRD. Thus, 40% of calves were found to have at least one incident of BRD. Feeding behaviour was altered during incidents of BRD. The number of unrewarded visits to the feeder was reduced, by approximately four visits, for calves with BRD during the 3 d prior to the identification of BRD (P < 0.05) and tended to be reduced during the 7 d following the identification of BRD (P = 0.05), compared with healthy calves. Additionally, calves with BRD had a tendency for reduced net energy intake (approximately 8%) during the 3 d prior to the identification of BRD, compared with healthy calves. Therefore, calf feeding behavioural data, recorded by electronic feeders during the pre-weaning period, can indicate cases of BRD.

Open access