Behavior activity derived from 3-dimensional accelerations to monitor diarrhea in neonatal dairy calves

Document Type


Publication Date



American Dairy Science Association


Journal of Dairy Science




Suppl. 1






calf scour, accelerometer, diarrhea


Diarrhea continues to be the primary cause of morbidity and mortality in preweaned dairy calves. This disease results in economic losses and long-term effects on health and productivity of surviving animals. Hence, monitoring systems that can be correlated with fecal scores in preruminant calves can allow dairy farmers to implement effective response protocols to such disease. Therefore, the objective of this study was to use 3-D accelerations to derive behavior activity (e.g., standing or lying time) and associate these with fecal scores in neonatal dairy calves. Forty-two healthy newborn dairy calves were used from birth until 21 d of age in a retrospective analysis. Calves were housed in individual hutches, had free access to starter and water, and were fed 2.8 L of milk replacer 2 × /d during wk 1 to 3. Calves were fitted with an accelerometer (Onset; Pocasset, MA) mounted in the rear left leg set to record every 60-s throughout the experiment. Fecal score (FS), respiratory score, rectal temperature, and starter intake were recorded daily, while BW and withers height were measured weekly. Overall fecal score (FS) of all calves reached its highest points during wk 2, with a maximum value on 10 d (FS = 2.1 ± 0.1). Based on average individual FS, calves were classified as low FS (LFS; FS = 1.47 ± 0.1; n = 21) and high FS (HFS; FS = 2.14 ± 0.1; n = 21). Data were analyzed using PROC MIXED of SAS with group, time, and their interaction as fixed effects and calf within group as random effect. As expected, FS was greater (P < 0.01) in the HFS group during the first 21 d of life. LFS calves showed greater (P < 0.01) starter intake (0.23 vs 0.10 kg/d), BW (50.0 vs 44.1 kg), and withers height (82.0 vs 78.8 cm), while lower respiratory score (P = 0.02) and rectal temperature (P < 0.01) than HFS calves. The HFS calves tended (P = 0.11) to have greater lying time than LFS. Although standing bouts were unaffected (P = 0.64) by FS, lying bouts tended to be greater (P = 0.06) in HFS calves than LFS. Differences in standing and lying behavior indicate that these parameters could be used to monitor diarrhea in neonatal dairy calves.