Abstract #250

# 250
Stress, immunity, and management of calves.
Lindsey E. Hulbert*1, Sonia J. Moisá1, 1Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS.

Despite many advances in management and housing of dairy calves, 1 in 10 US dairy heifers die before weaning. A better understanding of the internal and external stimuli that contribute to the calf’s physiological and behavioral responses to stressors is needed to reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality. Feeding calves their first meal is crucial, as successful passive transfer reduces mortality by 60%. There appears to be sexually dimorphic immune and stress responses in young cattle, but more research is needed to determine if this is caused by human-bias for female calves. After that first feeding, 1 in 10 heifers and most bull-calves in the US are transported to specialized calf-raising facilities, yet there is a lack of information of the newborn calf stress response during transit and handling. Whether calves are raised off-site or at a calf-ranch, individual housing systems are commonly used in the US to reduce the risk of pathogen exposure and provide individual feeding and healthcare. However, there may be health, growth, and social benefits for calves in alternative systems that have increased space-allowance or group housing. Disbudding and castration are typically performed at an early age for dairy calves, during the pre-wean stage. These stressors often take place when the calf has decreased passive-transfer Ig and immunity is developing. There is limited availability of pain-mitigation through anesthetics and analgesics, but there is evidence that analgesics attenuate supressed leukocyte function during these procedures. Milk replacer (MR) and milk quality may alter immunity. Solid-feed intake is a primary measure for determining “weaning-readiness,” but some MR formulas may influence the calf’s oral behaviors before weaning, therefore alternate weaning-methods may need to coincide with alternate MR formulas. The calf’s behavioral and stress response at weaning may influence its immunity during the transition from individual to group housing (commingling). Alternate commingling strategies and nutritional supplements may help with this transition, but more research is needed to explore feasible alternatives. Optimizing the calf’s health and well-being at these early-stages may improve its long-term health and behavioral strategies.

Key Words: calves, stress, immunity

Speaker Bio
Dr. Lindsey Hulbert began her career in Animal Science research in 2001 through an undergraduate research opportunity at Texas Tech University, where she received all three degrees covering topics in animal welfare using toolsets in animal behavior, immunology, health and production. Following her PhD in 2010, she conducted her post-doctoral work at the University of California, Davis. In January 2013, Dr. Hulbert joined the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University as an assistant professor in behavior and physiology with a 60:40 research:teaching appointment. Dr. Hulbert is dedicated to teaching over 120 KSU  undergraduates a year about topics in animal behavior and contemporary issues in animal agriculture. Dr. Hulbert's research team currently has one graduate student, Ms. Caleigh Payne, and one Post-Doctoral Scholar, Dr. Sonia Moisa and several undergraduate researchers.  Dr. Hulbert’s team has several on-going projects involving feeding, housing, and management strategies that influence animal behavior, immunity, health and productivity. A major project she is working on is feeding and oral behaviors in young stock.  Excessive non-nutritive oral behaviors (NNOB) in adult farm animals are often categorized as “stereotypies” and it is assumed these behaviors are caused by excessive stressors. However, it is not known how the neonatal care influences the development of NNOBs later in life. Early-life NNOB in pigs and cattle may be important for immunological and neurological development. The Hulbert lab research group will identify 1) the NNOB variation and variables causing NNOB within pigs and calves, 2) how the perinatal environment influences early-life and adult expression of NNOB, and how these behaviors are related to neurological and immunological development.