Comparison of thermal imaging and rectal temperature in the diagnosis of pyrexia in pre-weaned calves using on farm conditions

DJ Bell, AI Macrae, MA Mitchell, CS Mason, A Jennings, MJ Haskell

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6 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


Measuring core body temperature is used as part of the diagnostic process in assessing the health of animals.Typically in calves, this is carried out using a rectal thermometer which can be time consuming, stressful to the calf and is invasive by nature. A non-invasive technique that is gaining recognition is thermal imaging. This study investigated the use of thermal imaging as a technique to assess core body temperature in pre-weaned artificially reared calves. A total of 125 male and female calves had rectal temperatures measured daily from day 7 until day 40 of life, and at the same time had a thermal image taken of the area around the medial canthus of the eye. A weak correlation (r= 0.28) was found between calf rectal temperature and thermal image temperature. A multivariable predictive model for core body temperature increased the correlation (r= 0.32) when including the environmental parameters of air temperature (p< .001) and wind speed (p < .001) as well as reconstituted milk replacer consumption (p< .01). The effectiveness of a predictive model including these parameters for the detection of calves with a core body temperature≥39.5 °C was examined and found to have a sensitivity of 0% and a specificity of 100%.The results of this study demonstrate the need to take thermal environmental parameters into consideration when using thermal imaging to assess body temperature. However, the results suggest that accurate measures of core body temperature using thermal imaging cannot be achieved under commercial farm conditions. Further research is needed to determine what other factors could be measured to increase predictive ability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-265
Number of pages7
JournalResearch in Veterinary Science
Early online date4 May 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Aug 2020

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  • Climatic environment
  • Pre-weaned calves
  • Thermal image


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