Investigating the use of automated feeder data as potential predictors of morbidity and mortality in pre-weaned dairy calves: A scoping review protocol
Background: In early life, dairy calves are at high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Early detection of disease in dairy calves is vital to ensure an intervention is promptly applied to prevent the negative consequences associated with disease. Traditionally, neonatal calves were housed individually in hutches or pens in an attempt to limit disease transfer between calves. However, individual housing has been criticized for limiting calf movement, and preventing calf social interaction. Therefore, group housing of calves has gained popularity throughout Canada and the United States. The introduction of automated calf feeders has allowed farmers to more efficiently raise dairy calves. Automated calf feeders measure a wide variety of parameters each time a calf visits, including the amount consumed, drinking speed, and number of rewarded and unrewarded visits. These parameters are thought to provide insight into calf health and could be used as a predictor for disease in pre-weaned calves. However, there is limited published literature which attempts to characterize this data and its potential relationship with predicting disease.
Objectives: The objective of this scoping review is to characterize the body of literature investigating the use of automated feeder data to predict morbidity and mortality in dairy calves during the preweaning stage. This review will list the parameters that have been examined for associations with disease in calves and identify the gaps in knowledge.
Design: For this scoping review, only primary research will be included. Five databases will be searched for and relevant primary research as well as two databases for conference proceedings. The population will be limited to pre-weaned dairy calves of any breed. The dairy operations must use automated feeders during the pre-weaning period. Any definition of calf illness and disease will be included in the study (e.g. diarrhea, respiratory disease, antibiotic treatments, health scoring). Any parameter measured by an automated calf feeder will be considered for inclusion.
A Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) flowchart will be used to describe screening (Liberati et al., 2009). Tables will be constructed to summarize the included studies. These tables will include description of outcome definitions the automated feeder parameters described. The PRISMA-extension for scoping reviews will be used as a framework for reporting this scoping review (Tricco et al., 2018).