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Short communication: Calf cleanliness does not predict diarrhea upon arrival at a veal calf facility

Graham, A.N., Renaud, D.L., Duffield, T.F., Kelton, D.F.
Journal of dairy science 2018 v.101 no.4 pp. 3363-3366
calves, diarrhea, feces, thighs, veal
The objective of this study was to validate the use of cleanliness scores to identify the presence of diarrhea in calves. On arrival at a milk-fed veal facility, 452 calves were scored for hide cleanliness and fecal consistency by 1 of 2 observers. Fecal consistency was scored on a scale of 0 to 3, where fecal score of 0 = normal consistency, 1 = semiformed or pasty, 2 = loose feces, and 3 = watery feces; calves with a fecal score of 2 or 3 were classified as positive for diarrhea. Hide cleanliness was also scored on a scale of 0 to 3, where 0 = clean thighs and body with little to no manure on lower legs; 1 = tail head region and back end of calf are soiled with manure; 2 = tail head region, back end of calf, and thighs or legs are soiled with manure; and 3 = tail head region, back end of calf, thighs, and legs are soiled with manure. Of the calves scored, 188 calves (42%) were identified as having diarrhea based on hide cleanliness; however, only 78 calves (17%) were identified with diarrhea based on fecal consistency. The level of agreement between the 2 scoring methods were calculated, and a weighted kappa of 0.22 indicated only fair agreement between the 2 scoring methods. However, the sensitivity and specificity, calculated using fecal consistency ≥2 as the classification variable, were 67 and 63%, respectively, when a cut point of ≥1 for cleanliness score was used. A total of 222 calves scored at arrival were scored once per day for an additional 2 d following arrival. Calves were more likely to have more days with abnormal hide cleanliness than abnormal fecal consistency; 91 calves (41%) had an abnormal cleanliness score for at least 2 d, whereas only 21 calves (9%) had an abnormal fecal score for at least 2 d. We found poor correlation between total number of days with an abnormal cleanliness score and total number of days with an abnormal fecal score, indicating that consecutive observations of hide cleanliness would not improve the validity of using hide cleanliness. Thus, hide cleanliness is not a good indicator for identifying diarrhea in calves, and scoring fecal samples for consistency should be used to more accurately identify diarrhea in calves.