Symposium review: Precision technologies for dairy calves and management applications

Joao H.C. Costa, Melissa C. Cantor, Heather W. Neave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


There is an increasing interest in using precision dairy technologies (PDT) to monitor real-time animal behavior and physiology in livestock systems around the world. Although PDT in adult cattle is extensively reviewed, PDT use for the management of preweaned dairy calves has not been reviewed. We systematically reviewed research on the use and application of precision technologies in calves. Accelerometers have the potential to be used to monitor lying behavior, step activity, and rumination, which are useful to detect changes in behavior that may be indicative of disease, responses to painful procedures, or positive welfare behaviors such as play. Automated calf feeding systems can control delivery of nutritional plans to individualize feeding and weaning of calves; changes in feeding behaviors (such as milk intake, drinking speed, and unrewarded visits) may also be used to identify early onset of disease. The PDT devices also measure physiological and physical attributes in dairy calves. For instance, temperature monitoring devices such as infrared thermography, ruminal boluses, and implanted microchips have been assessed in calves, but no herd management-based commercial system is available. Many other PDT are in development with potential to be used in dairy calf management, such as image and acoustic-based monitoring, real-time location, and use of enrichment items for monitoring positive emotional states. We conclude that PDT have great potential for application in dairy calf management, enabling precise behavioral and physiological monitoring, targeted feeding programs, and identification of calves with poor health or behavioral impairments. We strongly encourage further development and validation of commercially available technologies for on-farm application of the monitoring of dairy calf welfare, performance, and health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1203-1219
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Dairy Science Association


  • accelerometer
  • animal welfare
  • automated feeder
  • bovine respiratory disease
  • calf disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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