Quantifying subclinical trauma associated with calving difficulty, vigour, and passive immunity in newborn beef calves

25 Jan 2019

Pearson, J. M., Homerosky, E. R., Caulkett, N. A., Campbell, J. R., Levy, M., Pajor, E. A., Windeyer, M. C.

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This cross-sectional study quantifies subclinical trauma associated with calving difficulty, calf vigour, and passive immunity (PI) in newborn beef calves. The degree of calving difficulty was categorised as: unassisted, easy assist (one or two people manually pulling to deliver the calf) and difficult assist (more than two people pulling, a fetal extractor (ie, calf jack), or caesarean section). Vigour assessment occurred at 10 minutes and blood sampling at 24 hours after birth in 77 beef calves. The measured blood parameters associated with trauma were creatine kinase (CK), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and haptoglobin. Serum IgG concentration was measured, and an IgG concentration at least 24 g/l was considered as adequate PI. Calving difficulty was associated with elevated levels of CK (P=0.002) and AST (P=0.01), weak suckle reflex (P=0.001), abnormal mucous membrane colour (P<0.0001), and decreased odds of adequate PI (P=0.004). Elevated levels of CK and AST were associated with abnormal mucous membrane colour, incomplete tongue withdrawal and weak suckle reflex at birth (P<0.001). An incomplete tongue withdrawal (P=0.005) and weak suckle reflex (P=0.02) were associated with decreased IgG concentrations. Abnormal mucous membrane colour, incomplete tongue withdrawal, and a weak suckle reflex were associated with decreased odds of having adequate PI (P<0.05). Haptoglobin was not associated with any of the parameters measured. Subclinical trauma was associated with calving difficulty, decreased vigour and decreased odds of having adequate PI. Understanding the impacts of a traumatic birth may aid the development of management strategies for compromised newborn beef calves.