Poster Title

Effect of Breed on Dairy Calf Vigor from Birth to Preweaning

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Agriculture: Pre-Veterinary

Minor

Chemistry

Institution

Eastern Kentucky University

Department

Dept. of Agriculture

Abstract

There is a stigma in the dairy industry that Brown Swiss calves are not as quick to stand and nurse following birth compared to other dairy breeds. The objective of this study is to determine if Brown Swiss calves are less vigorous at birth, and does this impact their health status and early calf growth compared to the dairy industry's most prominent breed, the Holstein. All calves (n = 25) were scored shortly after birth using a modified Apgar scoring system used for infants. Thirteen parameters divided into 5 categories were evaluated to determine overall vigor of each calf, these included visual scores for meconium staining and swelling of the head; initial mobility scores for time to lift head, time to stand, and ear position; general responsiveness scores included strength of the suckling reflex, head shake in response to straw in nasal cavity, tongue withdrawal when pinched, and eye reflex; oxygenation score for mucus membrane color; rates scores included heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature. In addition to the vigor scoring a weight was taken at birth and 2 weeks post calving. Jugular blood samples were collected at birth, 24 hours later, and at 2 weeks of age and serum was stored for later analysis of haptoglobin and IgG concentration. Vigor scores and weight data were analyzed by breed using the mixed procedure in SAS. The vigor score for suckling reflex was lower (P = 0.04) for Brown Swiss calves than Holstein calves (1.69 vs. 2.39, respectively). A weakened suckling reflex can lead to more challenges when consuming colostrum. Early colostrum intake is vital to obtaining passive immunity and maintaining health status in young calves. All other vigor scores collected for the Brown Swiss and Holstein calves did not differ (P > 0.05).

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Effect of Breed on Dairy Calf Vigor from Birth to Preweaning

There is a stigma in the dairy industry that Brown Swiss calves are not as quick to stand and nurse following birth compared to other dairy breeds. The objective of this study is to determine if Brown Swiss calves are less vigorous at birth, and does this impact their health status and early calf growth compared to the dairy industry's most prominent breed, the Holstein. All calves (n = 25) were scored shortly after birth using a modified Apgar scoring system used for infants. Thirteen parameters divided into 5 categories were evaluated to determine overall vigor of each calf, these included visual scores for meconium staining and swelling of the head; initial mobility scores for time to lift head, time to stand, and ear position; general responsiveness scores included strength of the suckling reflex, head shake in response to straw in nasal cavity, tongue withdrawal when pinched, and eye reflex; oxygenation score for mucus membrane color; rates scores included heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature. In addition to the vigor scoring a weight was taken at birth and 2 weeks post calving. Jugular blood samples were collected at birth, 24 hours later, and at 2 weeks of age and serum was stored for later analysis of haptoglobin and IgG concentration. Vigor scores and weight data were analyzed by breed using the mixed procedure in SAS. The vigor score for suckling reflex was lower (P = 0.04) for Brown Swiss calves than Holstein calves (1.69 vs. 2.39, respectively). A weakened suckling reflex can lead to more challenges when consuming colostrum. Early colostrum intake is vital to obtaining passive immunity and maintaining health status in young calves. All other vigor scores collected for the Brown Swiss and Holstein calves did not differ (P > 0.05).