Project Central

Early disease detection

Early disease detection

Early disease
detection in
dairy calves

Automated IRT station for early detection of disease in dairy calves:

A New Zealand Case Study

One project underway in the Waikato, NZ has integrated an IRT scanning system into an automated calf feeding station. The existing production and behavioural information (e.g., number of visits, feed intake, milk removal velocity) that the system currently gathers in combination with thermal changes may be a useful early predictive index for common diseases in dairy calves, such as Rotavirus (

Trials have been undertaken on two Waikato farms in the 2014 Spring calving season. Daily clinical examinations of the animals were undertaken and automated feeding behaviour, lying behaviour and eye temperature were recorded as well as blood sampling and faecal sampling for verification of disease. Results are currently being analysed.

Calf shed image provided by GEA

The predictive modelling and analytics we are developing will produce a simple alert system that can be sent to the farmers phone or other communication devices to inform them if an animal shows early signs of disease at a much earlier stage than is currently possible. Calves could then be isolated earlier from pen mates at risk of contamination and treated as required. Automated individual animal daily information such as this, integrated into existing systems, has potential to facilitate a major advance in decision-making abilities for the farmer and improvements in both animal welfare and production.