Pig cough monitor, applied to calf breeding

The cough monitor developed by SoundTalks is currently being adapted to the continuous monitoring of calves’ health within an experiment conducted at Teagasc in Ireland . 

The effect of gradual weaning on haematological profiles in artificially reared Holstein-Friesian and Jersey calves fed different planes of nutrition

Dr. Bernadette Earley and Dayle Johnston,  Animal and Bioscience Research Department, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc, Grange, Dunsany, Co. Meath, Ire   land.


calves1The two predominantly used dairy sire breeds in Ireland are Holstein-Friesian and Jersey. Recently, calves of Holstein-Friesian breed compared with the Jersey breed and calves fed a high plane of nutrition compared with calves fed a low plane of nutrition have shown increased immune responsiveness (Ballou, 2012). Our group has previously reported that weaning exerts an acute stress response in single-suckled beef calves, characterised by changes in the distribution of haematological cells (O’Loughlin et al., 2011). The objectives of this study were (i), to examine the effect of breed and (ii), the effect of plane of nutrition, on the haematological profiles of Holstein-Friesian and Jersey calves in response to gradual weaning.

Materials and Methods

The study was structured as a factorial design with two breeds (Holstein-Friesian (H-F) and Jersey (J)), and three levels of nutrition (high, medium and low) within breed. Forty-four H-F and twenty-nine J bulls were group housed indoors on sawdust floored pens from day (d) -56 to d 28 of the study. Calves were blocked, within breed, to nutrition treatment on the basis of live-weight, age and sire. H-F and J calves were allocated to either a high (H), medium (M) or low (L) plane of nutrition (H-F (H): n=14, (mean age±s.d.) 21 ± 5 d, (mean weight ± s.d.) 49 ± 6 kg; J(H): n=11, 35 ± 8 d, 33 ± 5 kg; H-F(M): n=16, 22 ± 7 d, 46 ± 5 kg; J(M): n=9, 35 ± 9 d, 34 ± 4 kg; H-F(L): n=20, 20 ± 4 d, 45 ± 5 kg; J(L): n=9, 35 ± 8 d, 33 ± 5 kg). Calves were fed using an electronic feeding system (Foster-Tecknik SA 2000, Engen, Germany). H-F calves on H, M and L nutrition levels were offered 8 Litres (l), 6l, 4l, milk replacer (MR) daily, and ad libitum, a maximum of 1.5kg and 1kg, concentrate (C) daily, respectively, pre-weaning. J calves on H, M and L nutrition levels were offered 6l, 4l, 3.5l, milk replacer (MR) daily, and ad libitum, a maximum of 1.5kg and 1kg, C daily, respectively, pre-weaning. All calves were offered approximately 400g straw/day throughout the study period.

Weaning was initiated when calves were consuming 1kg of C per day for three consecutive days. During the weaning phase MR was gradually reduced from its previous allocation to 0l over 14 days (d -13 to d 0).  After weaning, the maximum C allowance was maintained at ad libitum for H and increased to 2kg and 1.7kg, for H-F calves for M and L groups, respectively, and 1.7kg and 1.4kg, for J calves on the M and L planes of nutrition, respectively. On d -14, -6, -3, 0, 1, 3, 8, and 14 relative to weaning (d 0), calves were blood sampled for haematological analysis using an ADVIA 2120 analyser. Clinical health of the calves was recorded throughout the study.

calves3Daily health checks of the calves were conducted five days a week (Monday to Friday) from the 19/03/2013 to the 05/04/2013, over a three day period (e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week) from the 08/03/2013 to the 12/04/2013, and at least twice a week from the 15/04/2013 up to, and to include the weaning period. The assessments included the monitoring of rectal temperature, respiratory sounds (Trachea and lungs), presence of diarrhoea (normal, semi-formed, loose but stays on top of the bedding, watery and sifts through the bedding), presence of a cough (none, induced, spontaneous cough or repeated induced coughs, repeated spontaneous coughs), ear scores (normal, ear flick or head shake, unilateral droop, head tilt or bilateral droop), presence of nasal (none, small amount  of unilateral discharge, bilateral or excessive discharge, copious bilateral discharge) and ocular discharges (none, small amount, moderate amount of bilateral discharge, heavy discharge).

Calve cough monitor

cows1The respiratory status of the calves is monitored in a continuous, automated way by means of a cough monitor. Microphones in the shed first record the sound, and a smart algorithm then looks for the occurrence of calve coughs in these recordings. In the EU-PLF project, the algorithm for calve cough detection is developed, and the goal of the project is to prove the added value of early warning based on these automated monitoring tools. An update of the results will be shown later during the project.


Ballou, M.A. (2012). J. Dairy Sci. 95: 7319.

O’Loughlin, A., McGee, M. Waters, S.M., Doyle, S., & Earley, B. (2011). BMC., Vet. Res. 7: 45.

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