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Evaluation of calf body weight with a partial-weigh scale on an automatic calf feeder.

B. J. Heins




Evaluation of calf body weight with a partial-weigh scale on an automatic calf feeder.
B. J. Heins*, K. T. Sharpe. University of Minnesota Morris, MN.

The objective of this study was to evaluate a forefront weigh scale on stalls attached to an automatic calf milk feeder system to determine the accuracy of the scales on calf BW. The study was conducted at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN, dairy. Forty-seven Holstein and crossbred calves were fed either 8 L/d or ad lib milk from September 2019 to February 2020. Calves were introduced to the Holm & Laue HL100 Programmable Calf Feeder (Holm & Laue GmbH & Co KG, Westerronfeld, Germany). Calves were weaned from the automated feeder at 56 d. Weight scales were attached to 4 hygiene feeding stalls on the automated calf feeder. The calf weights from the automated calf feeder were compared with the gold standard calibrated electronic scale (Avery Weigh-Tronix LLC, Fairmont, MN scale head). Calves were weighed once per week. The automated calf feeder had a radio frequency identification reader place on the left side of the hygiene stall and scale for calf identification. The weigh scale was a forefront scale that calves had to stand on the scale with both front hooves to access milk. Data were downloaded from the CalfGuide management software. The associations of the daily weights from the automated feeder scale and the electronic scale were determined with Pearson correlation (PROC CORR of SAS) and Bland-Altman plots. Furthermore, PROC GLM of SAS was used to regress electronic BW on the automated calf feeder weight for each calf. A total of 587 weight observations were used for statistical analysis. The Pearson correlation of electronic weight compared with the automated feeder weight was 0.989 (P < 0.0001). The concordance correlation coefficient was 0.988. Correlations for individual calves ranged from 0.971 (P < 0.001) to 0.999 (P < 0.001). The slope of the regression line was 0.93 (T < 0.01) and 95% confidence interval was 0.916 to 0.947. A mean bias of 0.279 kg was observed from the Bland-Altman plots. The results suggest that there is potential for the forefront weigh scale to be used on automated calf feeders to support management decision making.

Keywords: automated feeder, calves, body weight.