Article Text

The interval between birth and sternal recumbency as an objective measure of the vitality of newborn calves
  1. G Schuijt and
  2. MA Taverne
  1. Department of Herd Health and Reproduction, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Abstract

The time from birth to attaining sternal recumbency (T-SR) was recorded for 219 newborn calves in order to evaluate its use as a parameter for diagnosing vitality. Calves were defined as vital if they received routine care without medical treatment and survived seven days from birth without any symptom of illness (n = 192). Those which did not fulfil these conditions were categorised as non-vital (n = 27). Ten calves were born spontaneously and the others were delivered either by caesarean section (n = 105), normal extraction (n = 78) or forced extraction (n = 26). The mean (+/- sd) T-SR values of the vital calves in these delivery groups were: 4.0 +/- 2.2, 4.5 +/- 3.1, 5.4 +/- 3.3 and 9.0 +/- 3.3 minutes, respectively. Jugular blood gas and pH measurements were performed at several fixed times after birth until pH and base excess had reached values of over 7.2 and more than -5.0 mmol/litre, respectively. Mean pH and base excess values of vital calves 10 minutes post partum were significantly higher and lower, respectively, than those of non-vital calves. Forcefully extracted calves had longer T-SR, more serious acidosis, recovered more slowly from acidosis, died more, and exhibited trauma more frequently. A T-SR of at least 15 minutes had a predictive value of 84 per cent for non-vitality, while 10 minute pH values of less than 6.9 had a lower predictive value, namely 68 per cent, for non-vitality. Correlations between T-SR values and 10 minute pH and base excess values were moderate, whereas correlations between T-SR values and PCO2 values were weaker still and much more dependent on the type of delivery. It is concluded that T-SR determination is a valuable, practicable and objective diagnostic tool for estimating the condition of newborn calves during the first 15 minutes of life. The diagnostic value of a single pH measurement on the jugular blood of a neonatal calf is doubtful.

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