Space allowance influences individually housed Holstein bull calf innate immune measures and standing behaviors after castration at 3 weeks of age

M. S. Calvo-Lorenzo, L. E. Hulbert, M. A. Ballou, A. L. Fowler, Y. Luo, K. C. Klasing, F. M. Mitloehner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Dairy calves in the Southwest regions of the United States are typically raised individually in wooden hutches with 1.23 m2 of space. The objective of the study was to determine if increased space allowance in wooden hutches influences measures of innate immunity and behaviors of Holstein bull calves pre- and postcastration. Calves were randomly assigned at 4 d of age to conventional (CONV; 1.23 m2 of space; n = 18), moderate (MOD; 1.85 m2 space; n = 17), or maximized space allowance (MAX; 3.71 m2 space; n = 19) in hutches. Calves were surgically castrated at 24 d of age. Peripheral whole blood samples were collected at −1, +1, +5, and +12 d of castration. Accelerometer loggers (n = 16 calves per treatment) were used from −3 to +5 d of castration to assess standing behaviors. All calves decreased total standing duration the day of castration versus precastration. Overall, MAX spent the most time in the stand position postcastration versus CONV and MOD. Within treatments, MOD and MAX had increased plasma cortisol 1 d postcastration versus precastration. A treatment × time tendency was observed for cortisol at 12 d postcastration; MAX had the least circulating cortisol. A treatment × time tendency for circulating haptoglobin (Hp) was observed and Hp was greatest among CONV 1 d pre- and 12 d postcastration. Compared with precastration, CONV had increased Hp at 1, 5, and 12 d, whereas MOD had increased Hp at 5 d, and Hp remained similar within MAX. A treatment × time tendency for tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) from lipopolysaccharide-stimulated whole blood was observed; at 1 d postcastration, MOD had the most TNF-α, whereas MAX had the least. Within MAX, calves had increased TNF-α from precastration to 5 d postcastration. A treatment × time interaction was observed for whole blood bactericidal activity against Escherichia coli (WB anti-E). The CONV tended to have the greatest WB anti-E at d −1, but at d 1 and 5 postcastration, CONV had the least WB anti-E. Overall, MAX had less intensity of neutrophil oxidative burst versus CONV and MOD. The lower response of neutrophil oxidative burst and slower Hp secretion after castration is indicative that the wound site likely had less microbial exposure. The findings of this study suggest that calves housed with more space are potentially at less risk of too much inflammation after castration, which may likely be due to the effects of increased space on hide cleanliness and increased standing time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2157-2169
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • behavior
  • bovine
  • castration
  • inflammation


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