Developing methods to improve welfare in periparturient dairy cows and pre-weaned calves
Swartz, Turner Harrison
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Animal behavior can be used to detect disease and well-being in dairy cattle. In this dissertation, we evaluated the accuracy of an accelerometer to measure step activity, lying time, and lying bouts in pre-weaned dairy calves. The output from the accelerometer was correlated with behavioral measurements taken from video footage. The accelerometer proved to be accurate in identifying step activity (r = 0.99), lying time (r = 0.99), and lying bouts (r = 0.99). The accelerometer was then used to detect behavioral changes occurring around respiratory disease events in pre-weaned calves. Activity declined 1 d prior to clinical disease onset, and this decline persisted for 3 d post-diagnosis. Furthermore, lying bouts declined beginning 2 d prior to diagnosis, and this effect persisted after diagnosis as well. However, aside from a slight reduction in milk intake, feeding behavior was not different between diseased and healthy calves. These data suggest that activity and lying behaviors may be a better measure than feeding behaviors for detection of respiratory disease in pre-weaned dairy calves. Dystocia has detrimental effects on both periparturient dairy cows and newborn calves. We administered a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, meloxicam to periparturient dairy cattle. Treatments included administration prior to calving (MEL-PRE, n = 60), post-calving (MEL-POST, n = 69), or a negative control (CTL, n = 65). We measured the length of labor to determine which cows had easy or difficult calvings. Eutocic MEL-PRE animals produced 6.8 kg/d more milk than eutocic CTL. Regardless of calving difficulty, MEL-PRE animals produced more milk fat, protein, and lactose (kg/d) than the CTL. Additional research is needed to determine appropriate treatments for dystocic calvings. Calves born during the above trial were monitored to determine if meloxicam administration prior to calving impacted newborn calf health and behavior. Calves born difficultly displayed fewer lying bouts for the first few days after birth when compared to calves born easily. No effect of treatment or calving difficulty was noted on calf health. Additional research examining intervention strategies aimed at improving well-being of calves born difficultly is needed.
- Doctoral Dissertations