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J Dairy Sci. 2016 Dec;99(12):9925-9930. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-10770. Epub 2016 Oct 13.

Technical note: Preliminary evaluation of an automated indwelling rumen temperature bolus measurement system to detect pyrexia in preweaned dairy calves.

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Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108. Electronic address:
Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108.
Department of Animal Science, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108.


Indwelling rumen temperature bolus (RTB) systems have the potential to offer a convenient and timely method of detecting pyrexia, indicative of active infectious disease. The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the utility of using RTB systems in preweaned dairy calves. First, an in vitro study was performed to evaluate the accuracy of the RTB in its immediate environment. Thirteen RTB were immersed in a hot water bath (WB). Variably collected RTB temperatures were then matched to WB temperatures, which varied from 36 to 41°C, with 1h spent at each temperature. Second, an in vivo study was performed to evaluate the ability of the RTB to predict a rectal thermometer (RT) temperature. Ten healthy heifer calves less than 1wk of age were administered an RTB. Rectal thermometer and matched RTB temperatures were taken hourly, over a 6-h period, 1 day per week during wk 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 of age. During each 6-h observation period, calves were offered both water and milk feedings and temperatures recorded every 15min for 1h thereafter. For both studies, the relationship between RTB and one of WB (in vitro) or RT temperature (in vivo) was described by calculating a concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) and by use of a multivariable linear regression model with repeated measures. For the in vivo study, the model also controlled for week and breed. Diagnostic test characteristics were calculated for the ability of individual RTB measures to detect pyrexia (RT ≥39.5°C). For the in vitro study, the association between the RTB and a known temperature was strong (CCC=0.95), but the RTB measures underestimated the temperature of the water bath by 0.43±0.08°C. For the in vivo study, the association between RT and the RTB temperature measurement in a calf was weaker (CCC=0.29); the average RTB temperature was 0.33±0.06°C lower than the RT temperature. The sensitivity (29%) and positive predictive value (17%) of using individual RTB measures to detect a fever was low. The results of this pilot study suggest that an individual RTB measurement may not be a good diagnostic test to detect pyrexia in calves.


dairy calf; rumen temperature bolus; temperature

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