Monitoring calf health


Beef & Lamb
Project code:
01 September 2016 - 29 February 2020
AHDB Beef & Lamb
Project leader:
SAC Commercial LTD

About this project

The Problem:

Calf health, particularly prevention of pneumonia and scours has recently been identified by the UK cattle health and welfare group as being a high priority (CHAWG, 2014). This report found that in 2012 3.6% of dairy bull calves and 2.5% of dairy heifer calves (live births) die on farm under 1 month of age (GB). Calf health and survival is also identified by AHDB beef and lamb as being an issue in calves of dairy origin, with calf scour and respiratory diseases the two predominant health problems in these young calves.


Aims and Objectives:

Objective 1. To investigate a range of monitoring techniques for detecting early signs of illness, and to develop alternative health management protocols using data acquired from the monitoring tools.

Objective 2. To implement and assess the use of appropriate monitoring techniques and health management protocols within a commercial context.

Objective 3. To assess the implications of early life disease on production efficiency during both rearing and finishing phases. To demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of enhanced calf health monitoring techniques and improved calf health management throughout all stages of the calf’s life cycle all the way to effects on carcass quality and value.

Objective 4. To promote the use of appropriate monitoring technologies and the improved strategies for managing calf health within dairy x beef production systems to a broad range of industry stakeholders, and to raise awareness of the cost implications of poor calf health on lifetime performance.



This proposal seeks to investigate the use of monitoring techniques, which target a range of different physiological functions (core body temperature, activity, feeding behaviour and intake), as a means of identifying the onset of disease. Within this proposed project the best strategies identified, alongside alternative calf health management programmes, will be implemented within commercial calf management units managed by a major UK dairy beef/calf supply chain (Blade Farming Ltd., ABP Food Group). Alongside monitoring the economic and production impacts of enhanced monitoring and improved calf health management, the long-term impacts on productivity and economics will be demonstrated.