In France Fédération Nationale Bovine (FNB) and Institute de L'Elevage (IDELE) organized a meeting with beef farmers and farm technicians to present the research innovation (RI) “Scoring vitality in new born calves”. A slide presentation was given and discussed afterwards. The topic was the presentation of the above-mentioned Research Innovation from the Bovine project and questions on calf mortality based on the tools and databases available in France. As a result, most of the scoring criteria observed after calving were known by farmers. Criteria to observe during calving were new and rose some curiosity among participants.
Farmers in the audience indicated that these after calving criteria are efficient to predict the vitality of the calves. However, in their opinion these criteria are better to be used to confirm suspected dummy calves or unfit calves than to assess the vitality of each calf. All participants agreed that scoring each calf is not feasible during the calving season: time consuming, increasing size of herds, too many calving together, night calving. They also considered that it would be unnecessary to score each calf (to check the vitality of each calf) in most calving situations, as suckler cows are very often selected for the calving facility, and unfit calves are not so frequent in suckling herds.
The idea arose that assessing and counting unfit calves would be interesting as a new indicator to discuss with the vet once a year, for the annual vet health assessment (bilan sanitaire). This could help to seek for solutions to decrease this number and/or improve reproduction schemes. In addition, participants agreed with the organizers that the various criteria that can be used to check calf viability should be published as a reminder to all suckler cow farmers. This would help improve and to quicken the identification of unfit calves in order to keep them apart, to provide them special care if necessary.