Thursday, August 25, 2016

How Good a Job Are We Doing Spotting Sick Calves?

As part of a research project that focused on diagnosing illness among preweaned calves 206 group-housed calves on a total of four farms were given health exams. The examination results were matched with treatment records on the farms. 

How well were the farm calf care workers doing finding and treating sick calves?

Diarrhea (scours) - the university staff found 45 calves (22 percent) with very loose feces. Of these 45 calves the calf care workers were treating 12 (27 percent identified and treated)

Navel infection - the university staff found 8 calves (4 percent) with infected navels. Of these 8 calves the calf care workers had treated 1 (13 percent identified and treated)

Severe pneumonia - the university staff found 31 calves (15 percent) with severe respiratory infections. Of these 31 calves the calf care workers were treating 9 (29 percent identified and treated).

Elevated temperature (fever) - the university staff found 25 calves (12 percent) with a temperature greater than 103F (39.4C). Of these 25 calves the calf care workers were treating 6 (24 percent identified and treated).

In summary, how good a job were the calf care workers doing in diagnosing and treating sick calves? What proportion of sick calves were not being diagnosed and treated?

87% of the calves with a navel infection not diagnosed and treated
76% of calves with a fever not diagnosed and treated
73% of calves with scours not diagnosed and treated
71% of calves with severe pneumonia not diagnosed and treated

[Note that there was some duplication in the categories of severe pneumonia and fever.]

Further, among the four farms there were large differences among percent of the sick calves identified and treated. For example, one farm diagnosed and treated all the calves with severe pneumonia (5 out of 5) while one of the other farms had not treated any of their pneumonia calves (0 out of 9). 

Reference: M.C. Cramer and Others, "Associations of behavior-based measurements and clinical disease in preweaned group-housed dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science, 99:7434-7443 September 2016

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