Respiratory disease of young dairy calves is a significant cause of morbidity, mortality, economic loss, and animal welfare concern but there is no gold standard diagnostic test for antemortem diagnosis. Clinical signs typically used to make a diagnosis of respiratory disease of calves are fever, cough, ocular or nasal discharge, abnormal breathing, and auscultation of abnormal lung sounds. Unfortunately, routine screening of calves for respiratory disease on the farm is rarely performed and until more comprehensive, practical and affordable respiratory disease-screening tools such as accelerometers, pedometers, appetite monitors, feed consumption detection systems, remote temperature recording devices, radiant heat detectors, electronic stethoscopes, and thoracic ultrasound are validated, timely diagnosis of respiratory disease can be facilitated using a standardized scoring system. We have developed a scoring system that attributes severity scores to each of four clinical parameters; rectal temperature, cough, nasal discharge, ocular discharge or ear position. A total respiratory score of five points or higher (provided that at least two abnormal parameters are observed) can be used to distinguish affected from unaffected calves. This can be applied as a screening tool twice-weekly to identify pre-weaned calves with respiratory disease thereby facilitating early detection. Coupled with effective treatment protocols, this scoring system will reduce post-weaning pneumonia, chronic pneumonia, and otitis media.
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