Effects of implementing a novel calf vitality scoring system and early intervention program on welfare, health and performance in newborn dairy calves


Team: Godden, S.  (PI), Bisinotto, R.  (Co-PI), Schefers, J., Leslie, K., Haines, D., Murray, C.

Funding Sources: Land O' Lakes Inc.

Project Time Frame: 2017

Dystocia and assisted calving is a painful process for both the dam and the calf, and yet pain management in newborn calves after assisted calving is still not addressed by most producers or veterinarians.  Early research suggests that therapy with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory shows promise for improving welfare, health and growth, particularly for calves born with assistance. The calf VIGOR scoring system, developed by the University of Guelph, is designed to be applied within minutes after birth to assesses Visual appearance, Initiation of movement, General responsiveness, Oxygenation, and heart and respiration Rates in calves. The VIGOR scoring system was designed to identify high risk/low vigor calves for the purpose of applying medical or other interventions to improve vigor, survivability, and other short- and long-term outcomes including health, growth, and productivity.

The primary objective of this study is to conduct a randomized controlled field trial to evaluate the effect of implementing a program that includes initial assessment using the calf VIGOR scoring system, followed by applying appropriate interventions, including pain control, to high risk/low vigor calves on outcomes of importance to calf survivability, wellbeing and performance. We hypothesize that adopting this program will result in reduced perinatal mortality (stillbirth), improved vitality/vigor, and improved preweaning health and growth in high risk/low vigor dairy calves born to dystocia or assisted calving.