Animal Industry Report

Extension Number

ASL R3164



Summary and Implications

Measuring the behavior of dairy calves canpossiblylead to better understandings of the welfare, nutrition, and management of the calves. Behavioral monitoring systems based on accelerometer technology and proprietary algorithms for behavior categorization are commercially available for dairy cows. During this work, 12 calves (6 at a time)were fitted with an ear tag based behavior and temperature monitor (Cow Manager, Agis Automatisering, Netherlands) to evaluate behavior and ear temperature changes from birth through 90 days of age. To our knowledge, this is the first study to use this technology in calves.

The study is still undergoing with data to be subsequently analyzed and interpreted. This paper shows a representative behavior graph of one calf as well as associated health and movement events during that calf’searly lifetime. The ear tag was very useful in monitoring animal movement and behavior over time, and reflected changes were seen during health, or normal large movement events (weaning, pen moves). Since the tag’s algorithms, behavioral activities, and alerts are based on adult cows and animals, some issues were seen which would need to be modified with new algorithms and behaviors to reflect calf behavior. Calf bottle feeding was categorized as rumination. The accelerometer movements are similar but categorization of the behavior associated with that movement is different in calves (nursing on bottles vs. rumination). Also, calves consistently showed up on the health alerts screens as their limited eating and high inactivity as young calves (normal activity) was seen and categorized as potentially sick animals. New algorithms and health mark benchmarks and parameters must be established based on calf behaviors.

Copyright Holder

Iowa State University





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Dairy Science Commons