Holstein bull calves arriving at five special-fed veal farms (eight production groups) were scored for various physical condition traits and blood-sampled within 2 h after arrival and at 28 d, 84 d, and 1 wk prior to slaughter at 116 to 143 d. Of 1179 total calves in the production groups, 758 calves were scored and evaluated. Blood cell analyses (red and white blood cell counts, hemoglobin, and packed cell volume) were conducted at all four sampling times; total serum protein concentration was obtained at 0 and 28 d. The study was initiated in autumn and ended the following autumn. Mean initial and final body weights were 46.3 ± 0.17 and 209.7 ± 0.77 kg; mean mortality was 2.5%. Average daily gain of the eight groups ranged from 1.23 to 1.70 kg/d. Subjective scores of 5 = excellent to 1 = very poor condition were used to evaluate 16 different physical condition characteristics. With the exception of leg joint, hoof, and foot scores, most of the physical condition scores exhibited improvement during the first 28 d. Foot and leg impairments did not appear to hinder the ambulatory ability of the calves during the production period. Physical condition scores at d 0 and 28 were generally not related to numbers or types of medical treatments (enteric, respiratory, other, or total) or to average daily gain during the production period. Means for most erythrocytic and leukocytic traits upon arrival (d 0) were within normal ranges, although 27.4% of the calves were clinically or marginally anemic. Final mean hemoglobin and packed cell volume were 8.53 g/dl and 26.1%. Forty-three percent of the calves at d 0 were colostral deficient, assuming that total serum protein concentrations of <5.5 g/dl indicate colostral deficiency. No blood trait was consistently correlated with body weight gain when gain during the production period was divided into quartiles and the blood traits were averaged by gain quartile. Calves in the lowest serum total protein quartile (mean 4.58 g/dl) had more respiratory and total medical treatments than quartiles with higher total protein means. Dairy bull calves arriving at veal production units after transporting from the dairy farm to the auction market (or other collection facility) have several physical impairments. However, most of these physical impairments are improved early in the veal feeding period and are not generally related to subsequent growth rate or medical treatment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology