Vigour of dairy calves in the first few days of life may be a relevant predictor of subsequent performance in an artificial-rearing system. This experiment aimed to evaluate two scoring systems to determine whether they detected variation in beef-sired calves born in the New Zealand pastoral dairy system. The scoring systems included a vigour score devised for housed dairy calves in Canada which had a range of physical and physiological parameters assessed, and a drinking score assessed at the feeder in the first few days of life (1=calf does not attempt to suck on feeder, 5=calf drinks vigorously for the whole feed). Calves generally scored highly (17-21 out of a possible 22 points) on the vigour score and meconium staining, head/tongue swelling, movement and heart rate showed little to no variation among calves. The drinking score showed that few calves scored in the low categories, and the scoring system may be improved by creating greater separation within the higher categories. Angus-cross calves were more likely to have a higher drinking score than Hereford-cross calves, and light or young calves were more likely to have low drinking scores.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 78, Lincoln, 161-164, 2018
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