TECHNICAL NOTE: Development of a pressure sensor-based system for measuring rumination time in pre-weaned dairy calves

Mehdi Eslamizad, Lisa-Maria Tümmler, Michael Derno, Matthias Hoch, Björn Kuhla
Journal of Animal Science 2018 November 21, 96 (11): 4483-4489
The pressure-based noseband sensor system (RWS: RumiWatch System; ITIN + HOCH GmbH Feeding Technology, Liestal, Switzerland) has recently been validated for the measurement of rumination time in mature cows. We aimed in this study at developing a similar pressure-based system for monitoring rumination in young dairy calves. To this end, a vegetable oil-filled silicon tube with a built-in pressure sensor (outer diameter 5.7 mm, length 38 cm) was attached to the noseband of a calf halter. In contrast to the RWS developed for mature cows, the accelerometer, the battery, the data logger, and the SD card of the RWS were integrated into 1 box to reduce the weight of the RWS to 0.35 kg. The box was attached to the halter so that it was located behind the right ear of the calf. Ten pre-weaned German Holstein calves (49-106 kg BW and 33-63 days of age) were equipped with the RWS. Calves were milk-fed thrice a day and offered hay and commercial starter for ad libitum intake. In parallel, animals were monitored by a video camera connected to a video recorder for 12 h. Two independent observers assessed the video records to obtain a reliable gold standard for the evaluation of the newly developed RWS. Data obtained by either RWS or visual video observation were processed as min rumination per h, yielding a total of 120 pairs of values (12 pairs per animal) for regression analysis. Assessment of 2 independent observers were highly correlated (r = 0.99). Results indicated relatively low random error between results obtained from the RWS (on y-axis) and video observations (on x-axis) (R2 = 0.82). However, the intercept of the regression line (y = 7.70 + 0.64 x) was significantly different from zero (P < 0.01) and the 95% confidence interval of the slope (0.79-0.94) did not include the value of 1. This translates to a significant systemic error resulting in overestimation of rumination time which is attributable to nutritive and nonnutritive oral activities that almost exclusively lasted for up to 10 min. Exclusion of false positive rumination signals lasting less than 10 or 5 consecutive min from the analysis reduced the random and systemic errors of the model (R2 = 0.86 and 0.93, respectively). We conclude that the newly developed RWS can be used to provide accurate measurement of rumination time in young calves. However, an extra programmed algorithm in the evaluation software is recommended to make the system more user-friendly for measurements on calves.


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