Understanding the Impact of Transportation on Young Dairy Calves

Goetz, Hanne M.
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University of Guelph

This thesis describes research conducted to explore and contribute to the literature investigating the impact of transportation on surplus dairy calves. This includes a characterization of the literature surrounding transportation of calves, an assessment of transportation’s effect on hematological parameters, an evaluation of how transportation affects subsequent health and growth of surplus calves, and an identification of biomarkers associated with future health and performance of calves. A scoping review was conducted to compile the literature surrounding transportation of pre-weaned dairy calves and to identify knowledge gaps. The most frequently studied risk factor was time in transit and blood parameters were commonly used as an outcome measure in the 46 studies outlined in this chapter. Methods to prepare calves for transportation, such as improving nutrition, administering medication, or transporting calves at an older age or weight were infrequently investigated and should be considered in future research. The effect of transportation on hematological parameters of surplus calves following 6, 12, or 16 h of transportation was evaluated in a randomized controlled trial. Transportation of calves for longer durations resulted in increased mobilization of energy stores and more pronounced blood gas disturbances, compared to 6 h of transportation. Additionally, older calves experienced greater energy expenditure and blood gas imbalances compared to calves less than 1 week of age at the time of transportation. This randomized controlled trial also investigated the effect of transportation on subsequent health and growth of surplus calves. Calves transported for 16 h lost the greatest amount of weight during transportation and experienced more health challenges in the 14 d thereafter. Additionally, calves transported at > 1 week old experienced a reduced incidence of abnormal respiratory scores compared to calves transported at < 1 week of age following 16 h of transportation. Older calves also had higher ADG in the first 50 d after arrival. A prospective single cohort study identified biomarkers measured upon arrival to a veal facility that were associated with morbidity, mortality and ADG. This study found that measures such as haptoglobin, creatine kinase, molybdenum, copper, iron, IgG, and weight were associated with morbidity, mortality, and ADG.

Surplus calf, veal industry, male dairy calves
H. M. Goetz, C. B. Winder, J. H. C. Costa, K. C. Creutzinger, T. Uyama, D. F. Kelton, J. Dunn, and D. L. Renaud. 2022. Characterizing the literature surrounding transportation of young dairy calves: A scoping review. J. Dairy Sci. 105:1555-1572. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2021-21211
H. M. Goetz, D. F. Kelton, J. H. C. Costa, C. B. Winder, and D. L. Renaud. 2021. Identification of biomarkers measured upon arrival associated with morbidity, mortality, and average daily gain in grain-fed veal calves. J. Dairy Sci. 104:874-885. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18729