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Prospective cohort study to assess rates of contagious disease in pre-weaned UK dairy heifers: management practices, passive transfer of immunity and associated calf health

Johnson, K. F., Chancellor, N., Burn, C. C. and Wathes, D. C. (2017) Prospective cohort study to assess rates of contagious disease in pre-weaned UK dairy heifers: management practices, passive transfer of immunity and associated calf health. Veterinary Record, 4. pp. 1-10. ISSN 0042-4900

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1136/vetreco-2017-000226

Abstract/Summary

Dairy calves are vulnerable to infectious diseases, particularly diarrhoea and bovine respiratory disease (BRD), causing mortality and reducing welfare and growth. A prospective cohort study was performed on 11 UK dairy farms to determine the underlying causes for calf disease. This first paper describes the incidence, timing and duration of infectious disease, mortality rates, passive transfer of immunity and key management practices that may contribute to disease incidence. Heifer calves were recruited in the first week of life (n=492) and a blood sample taken to measure IgG and total protein (TP). Each animal was examined weekly for nine weeks using a standardised health scoring system. Recruitment of calves occurred between August and February. Four farms provided supplementary colostrum to more than 75 per cent of calves born, whereas on the remainder only 0 to 19 per cent were supplemented. Mean serum IgG and TP were 19.0±10 and 56.7±10.3mg/ml respectively, with 20.7 per cent (95CI: 17.2 to 24.7 per cent) of all calves classified as having failure of passive transfer (IgG <10mg/ml). The overall preweaning mortality rate was 4.5 per cent. (95 per cent CI: 2.9 to 6.8 per cent). During this period,48.2 per cent of all calves (range 24.1 to 74.4 per cent between farms) were diagnosed with diarrhoea and 45.9 per cent (range 20.4 to 77.8 per cent) with BRD. The incidence rates were 7.8 cases of diarrhoea and 10.1 cases of BRD per 100 calf weeks at risk, respectively. Rates of infectious disease were therefore high despite relatively good passive transfer.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Biodiversity, Crops and Agroecosystems Division > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:79262
Publisher:British Veterinary Association

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