The bovine respiratory disease (BRD) complex impairs health and welfare in calves and causes severe economic losses for the owner. Earlier recognition of BRD makes earlier veterinary interventions (antibiotic or anti-inflammatory treatment) possible, which in turn reduce the severity of a disease outbreak and the associated costs. Based on the respiratory distress monitor for pigs that is already commercially available, SoundTalks is currently developing a respiratory distress monitor for calves.
The respiratory distress monitor of SoundTalks is based on the automated analysis of the sound that occurs in the calve house. As coughing and sneezing are clinical manifestations of BRD, the automated counting of coughs and sneezes are features incorporated in the automated determination of the respiratory distress. We believe that, similar to the results in pigs, automated and continuous monitoring of sounds within calf houses makes early warning of BRD problems possible.
In the framework of the EU-PLF project (http://www.eu-plf.eu/), three calve houses are currently being monitored across Europe. The first results from 62 artificially reared dairy calves (monitored over a 3 month period) are now available. Calves presenting with BRD received antibiotic and/or anti-inflammatory treatment and the dates of treatment were recorded. These treatment dates serve as a comparison for the investigation of whether an increase in the automatically calculated respiratory distress index relates to calves developing BRD.
Four out of five periods where the respiratory distress index was severely increased coincide with the development of BRD in more than one calf! This period of increased respiratory distress index is in all 4 cases observed before the calves were treated. Therefore, the respiratory distress monitor in calves shows to have the potential to identify early onset of BRD and SoundTalks will continue to work towards a robust commercial solution.