Send to

Choose Destination
J Dairy Sci. 2018 Mar;101(3):2669-2678. doi: 10.3168/jds.2017-14042. Epub 2017 Dec 28.

Clinical and metabolic indicators associated with early mortality at a milk-fed veal facility: A prospective case-control study.

Author information

Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.
Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1. Electronic address:


Antimicrobial use and resistance, in combination with high levels of mortality, are important challenges facing the veal industry. To improve both the economic sustainability of the industry and animal welfare, measures need to be taken to explore and address reasons for these challenges. Health status at arrival may be an important predictor of calf mortality because substantial mortality occurs early in the growing period on veal operations. The objective of this observational case-control study was to identify clinically measurable variables and metabolic indicators associated with mortality in the first 21 d following arrival at a veal facility. Calves were evaluated using a standardized health scoring system, blood was collected, calves were weighed, and the supplier of the calf was recorded at arrival. The calves were followed until death or 21 d after arrival. Cases were defined as calves that died ≤21 d following arrival. Two controls for every case were randomly selected from calves that survived >21 d, arrived on the same day, and were housed in the same barn as cases. Stored serum harvested at arrival from cases and controls was submitted for measurement of concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids, β-hydroxybutyrate, glucose, cholesterol, urea, haptoglobin, and immunoglobulin G. A conditional logistic regression model was built to evaluate factors associated with mortality ≤21 d following arrival. A total of 4,825 calves were evaluated from November 2015 to September 2016. The mortality risk in the first 21 d was 2.8%, giving 135 cases, which were compared with 270 controls. Six variables were significant in the final multivariable model. Calves with a slightly enlarged navel with slight pain or moisture, and those with severe dehydration had increased odds of mortality ≤21 d following arrival. Drover-derived calves, calves that weighed more, and calves that had higher concentration of immunoglobulin G or cholesterol at arrival were less likely to die. The results demonstrate that calves at elevated risk for early mortality can be identified at arrival using both health and hematological factors. Early recognition of high-risk calves may allow for an intervention that could result in improvement in survival rates; however, prevention of these abnormalities before arrival at veal facilities needs to be further explored.


antimicrobial use; calf health status; case-control study; veal industry

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center