The objective of this study was to assess the association between serum concentrations of haptoglobin (Hp), cortisol, and L-lactate following transport of dairy heifer calves within their first week of life with health, mortality, and growth during the preweaning period. Blood samples were collected at arrival and included a cohort of 168 Jersey and Jersey-cross calves from 8 different sources located in Minnesota. All calves were raised at a single facility in New Mexico. Incidence of respiratory disease (BRD) and mortality during the preweaning period (60 d of life) were extracted from the farm's software database. Individual body weight was measured at birth and at weaning to estimate average daily gain. No simple linear correlations were found between the biomarkers. The incidence of BRD during the preweaning period was 7.7%. While cortisol and L-lactate serum concentrations were not associated with BRD, Hp was negatively associated with BRD. Receiving operating characteristic curve analysis was performed to determine the optimal threshold value for Hp [threshold ≤0.63 μmol/L (63 μg/mL), area under the curve = 0.65]. A Cox's proportional hazards model revealed that calves with Hp concentration ≤0.63 μmol/L were more likely to be diagnosed with BRD (hazard ratio = 5.0, 95% confidence interval = 1.3–19.0). A mixed linear model showed that calves with Hp concentration ≤0.63 μmol/L tended to have lower average daily gain (454.4 vs. 479.9 g/d) during the preweaning period than calves with Hp >0.63 μmol/L at arrival. Overall mortality of the cohort was 3.5%, and Hp was not associated with mortality. Although circulating concentrations of L-lactate and cortisol measured at arrival were not associated with BRD incidence during the preweaning period of heifer calves transported within the first 4 d of life, calves with serum Hp concentration >0.63 μmol/L were less likely to be diagnosed with BRD and tended to grow more than calves with Hp ≤0.63 μmol/L. Further research is needed to replicate these results in a larger cohort and to better understand the possible influence of greater inflammatory status at arrival on health and growth of calves transported to a calf-raising facility.
- calf health