The objectives of this study were to evaluate (1) the performance of an automated health-monitoring system (AHMS) to identify cows with metabolic and digestive disorders—including displaced abomasum, ketosis, and indigestion—based on an alert system (health index score, HIS) that combines rumination time and physical activity; (2) the number of days between the first HIS alert and clinical diagnosis (CD) of the disorders by farm personnel; and (3) the daily rumination time, physical activity, and HIS patterns around CD. Holstein cattle (n = 1,121; 451 nulliparous and 670 multiparous) were fitted with a neck-mounted electronic rumination and activity monitoring tag (HR Tags, SCR Dairy, Netanya, Israel) from at least −21 to 80 d in milk (DIM). Raw data collected in 2-h periods were summarized per 24 h as daily rumination and activity. A HIS (0 to 100 arbitrary units) was calculated daily for individual cows with an algorithm that used rumination and activity. A positive HIS outcome was defined as a HIS of <86 during at least 1 d from −5 to 2 d after CD. Blood concentrations of nonesterified fatty acids, β-hydroxybutyrate, total calcium, and haptoglobin were determined in a subgroup of cows (n = 459) at −11 ± 3, −4 ± 3, 0, 3 ± 1, 7 ± 1, 14 ± 1, and 28 ± 1 DIM. The sensitivity of the HIS was 98% [95% confidence interval (CI): 93, 100] for displaced abomasum (n = 41); 91% (95% CI: 83, 99) for ketosis (n = 54); 89% (95% CI: 68, 100) for indigestion (n = 9); and 93% (95% CI: 89, 98) for all metabolic and digestive disorders combined (n = 104). Days (mean and 95% CI) from the first positive HIS <86 and CD were −3 (−3.7, −2.3), −1.6 (−2.3, −1.0), −0.5 (−1.5, 0.5), and −2.1 (−2.5, −1.6) for displaced abomasum, ketosis, indigestion, and all metabolic and digestive disorders, respectively. The patterns of rumination, activity, and HIS for cows flagged by the AHMS were characterized by lower levels than for cows without a health disorder and cows not flagged by the AHMS from −5 to 5 d after CD, depending on the disorder and parameter. Differences between cows without health disorders and those flagged by the AHMS for blood markers of metabolic and health status confirmed the observations of the CD and AHMS alerts. The overall sensitivity and timing of the AHMS alerts for cows with metabolic and digestive disorders indicated that AHMS that combine rumination and activity could be a useful tool for identifying cows with metabolic and digestive disorders.
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The authors extend their gratitude to the owners, managers, and personnel of the commercial dairy farm that participated in the study for providing access to their cows and facilities, and their collaboration with our research team. We also extend our gratitude to SCR Dairy (Madison, WI) for partial financial and logistical support to conduct this research and to Thomas Overton (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY) for providing useful feedback on the manuscript. Matias Stangaferro received partial support from a Fulbright fellowship and from Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Esperanza, Argentina).
- digestive disorder
- metabolic disorder