Respiratory disease is a major health problem in calf. As in almost all cases of disease, an early detection can speed up the healing. The observation of respiration rate by counting flank movement in calves is not easy (time consuming, hard to see, calves don't stand still). Thus, an automatic tool which assesses the respiration rate and gives an alert in the case of discrepancies can help to detect respiratory disease early, easy and cure faster.

In the study presented here video recordings of flank movements were taken from 5 calves at the same time than infrared thermography recordings of the nostrils, 12 videos from both positions have been produced in total. The infrared images show clear temperature differences on the nostrils. These are cooled by the ambient air when inhaling and warmed by the breathing air when exhaling. 

Infrared Thermography of calves nostrils when exhaling / inhaling. The circle marks the point were cooled / warmed nostril ist visible. (C) FLI

The respiration rate that can be determined from this pattern corresponds to the respiration rate determined from the flank movements. An algorithm to automate this technique is still missing, but the technique seems promising. The automatic milk feeder would be a suitable place to use the technique because the calves stand still in a relatively predictable position. The innovation can be a way to assess respiration rate in calves automatically. Thus, the technique can be a future tool for automated health monitoring in calf rearing. 





This innovation has an impact on

  • Socio-economic resilience: Whether the costs for this additional monitoring tool can be offset by faster detection of respiratory disease and thus fewer health problems, including late effects, cannot be estimated at present
  • Animal health and welfare: Early detection usually means a less severe course of disease, so this tool can have an impact on animal health and welfare where appropriate
  • Production efficiency and meat quality: Respiratory diseases in rearing do not necessarily only mean a problem for the animal concerned at the time of the acute disease. They can affect the animal's performance until the end of its life. Therefore, a mitigated course through early detection may have an impact on product efficiency.