Intrinsic calf factors associated with the behavior of healthy pre-weaned group-housed dairy-bred calves

Beth B. Riley*, Carol-Anne Duthie, Alexander Corbishley, Colin Mason, Jenna M. Bowen, David J. Bell, Marie J. Haskell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Downloads (Pure)


Technology-derived behaviors are researched for disease detection in artificially-reared calves. Whilst existing studies demonstrate differences in behaviors between healthy and diseased calves, intrinsic calf factors (e.g., sex and birthweight) that may affect these behaviors have received little systematic study. This study aimed to understand the impact of a range of calf factors on milk feeding and activity variables of dairy-bred calves. Calves were group-housed from ~7 days to 39 days of age. Seven liters of milk replacer was available daily from an automatic milk feeder, which recorded feeding behaviors and live-weight. Calves were health scored daily and a tri-axial accelerometer used to record activity variables. Healthy calves were selected by excluding data collected 3 days either side of a poor health score or a treatment event. Thirty-one calves with 10 days each were analyzed. Mixed models were used to identify which of live-weight, age, sex, season of birth, age of inclusion into the group, dam parity, birthweight, and sire breed type (beef or dairy), had a significant influence on milk feeding and activity variables. Heavier calves visited the milk machine more frequently for shorter visits, drank faster and were more likely to drink their daily milk allowance than lighter calves. Older calves had a shorter mean standing bout length and were less active than younger calves. Calves born in summer had a longer daily lying time, performed more lying and standing bouts/day and had shorter mean standing bouts than those born in autumn or winter. Male calves had a longer mean lying bout length, drank more slowly and were less likely to consume their daily milk allowance than their female counterparts. Calves that were born heavier had fewer lying and standing bouts each day, a longer mean standing bout length and drank less milk per visit. Beef-sired calves had a longer mean lying bout length and drank more slowly than their dairy sired counterparts. Intrinsic calf factors influence different healthy calf behaviors in different ways. These factors must be considered in the design of research studies and the field application of behavior-based disease detection tools in artificially reared calves.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1204580
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Early online date3 Aug 2023
Publication statusFirst published - 3 Aug 2023


  • activity
  • behavior
  • calf/calves
  • feeding
  • group-housed
  • healthy


Dive into the research topics of 'Intrinsic calf factors associated with the behavior of healthy pre-weaned group-housed dairy-bred calves'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this