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Characteristics, risk factors and management programs for vitality of newborn dairy calves

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Title: Characteristics, risk factors and management programs for vitality of newborn dairy calves
Author: Murray, Christine
Department: Department of Population Medicine
Program: Population Medicine
Advisor: Duffield, ToddHaley, Derek
Abstract: This thesis was conducted to evaluate the effects of calving difficulty on newborn dairy calves and to relate these effects to easily observable or measurable signs of reduced vigor. These signs were evaluated for their use in predicting reduced passive transfer, health and growth. Furthermore, methods to reduce the pain, inflammation and acidosis resulting from dystocia were investigated to improve newborn calf vigor and long-term performance. Five independent research trials were conducted on various dairy farms in southern Ontario, as well as at the University of British Columbia’s Dairy Education and Research Center. The overall results of this thesis suggest that calves born from a difficult calving are more acidotic, have lower motivation to get up, weaker suckling responses and lower overall vigor. The administration of meloxicam following birth shows promise for the improvement of newborn vigor and suckling reflex. In addition, meloxicam treatment following a difficult calving may have long-term benefits such as improved pre-weaning milk intakes, weight gain and health. The supplementation of colostrum with sodium bicarbonate did not show any significant advantage. Furthermore, no association was found between calving difficulty, newborn vigor, meloxicam treatment or supplementation with sodium bicarbonate on the success of passive transfer. Calves with failure of passive transfer had higher odds of future disease and mortality. Moreover, the incidence of disease and mortality were greater in calves with high serum haptoglobin concentrations in their first week of life. Thus, measuring haptoglobin may be a useful biomarker for calves experiencing trauma or infection at or following calving. Identifying calves that require additional care may aid in the prevention of future health risks in calves up to 4 months of age.
Date: 2014-02
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