Fecal Score Evaluation of Pre-Weaned Dairy Calves in Group Housing

Monday, July 21, 2014
Exhibit Hall AB (Kansas City Convention Center)
Morgan Kittell , University of Wisconsin - River Falls, River Falls, WI
Jenny Augustine , University of Wisconsin - River Falls, River Falls, WI
Sylvia I Kehoe , University of Wisconsin - River Falls, River Falls, WI
Abstract Text: Group housing for pre-weaned dairy calves has gained popularity among farmers because it reduces time and labor. Automatic calf feeders allow for calves to receive increased milk intake multiple times a day.  However, this increased milk consumption may cause an increase in fecal score which is the common method for dairy calf managers to identify a sick calf.  The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether increased fecal scores in group housed calves were indicative of illness.  A local calf raiser was used to evaluate a total of 61 calves from arrival at approximately 3-5 d of age through 3 wk of age.  Once a week, a blood sample was analyzed for serum protein and hematocrit concentration to assess dehydration.  A fecal sample was obtained and scored using a scale of 1-4 with 1 being solid and 4 being watery with little to no solids (Larson et al., 1977).  Nasal and ocular discharge were recorded and the skin tent test was performed.  Rectal temperature was taken and respiration, umbilical area, and overall attitude were evaluated.  Weight data and medication records were obtained from the calf grower.  Data was analyzed using a multiple logistic regression model in SAS 9.3 (2010).  Variables were eliminated using backward stepwise regression to obtain a minimal model containing only significant variables (P<0.05).  All variables were eliminated from the model except nasal and ocular discharge and serum protein (P<0.001).  These results indicate that a higher fecal score is not a good diagnosing tool in group housed calves receiving higher amounts of milk.  Therefore, additional research is needed to distinguish effective methods for identifying sick calves in group housing with increased milk intake.

Keywords: Calves, group housing, health