PhD: Preventing Respiratory Disease in Calves

David Bell


  Research Partner: SRUC

  Start and end date: September 2016 - March 2020

  PhD student: David Bell



 Respiratory disease is a major cause of ill-health and mortality in calves.  

Financially, it is estimated to cost the UK cattle industry £60 million annually.  It can be described as a multi-factorial disease because although the pathogens are often present in the environment, animals usually only get ill when they become stressed or when the burden of infection is increased because of poor air quality (the connection between the infectious agent, the environment, and management).

Getting the calf environment correct is crucial in promoting health and maintaining growth rates to ensure a productive and sustainable animal.

This project aims to look at environmental factors, such as wind speed, temperature and humidity, the affect they have on the thermal comfort of the pre-weaned calf, and how the calves respond to a change in climate.  This information about climate and the calf response to it will be investigated to see whether a detrimental climate impacts on calf health and productivity (increased incidence of disease and reduced growth rates). Calves will be followed through their early life using climate monitoring sensors, video analysis, in-person monitoring, information collected by the automatic milk feeders and emerging technology (e.g. thermal imaging) to hopefully better inform us how we can improve the health and productivity of artificially reared dairy calves.