Publications by authors named "Devon Wilson"

8 Publications

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Perspectives on the Management of Surplus Dairy Calves in the United States and Canada.

Front Vet Sci 2021 13;8:661453. Epub 2021 Apr 13.

Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

The care of surplus dairy calves is a significant issue for the United States and Canadian dairy industries. Surplus dairy calves commonly experience poor welfare as evidenced by high levels of mortality and morbidity, and negative affective states resulting from limited opportunities to express natural behaviors. Many of these challenges are a result of a disaggregated production system, beginning with calf management at the dairy farm of origin and ending at a calf-raising facility, with some calves experiencing long-distance transportation and commingling at auction markets or assembly yards in the interim. Thus, the objectives of this narrative review are to highlight specific challenges associated with raising surplus dairy calves in the U.S. and Canada, how these challenges originate and could be addressed, and discuss future directions that may start with refinements of the current system, but ultimately require a system change. The first critical area to address is the management of surplus dairy calves on the dairy farm of origin. Good neonatal calf care reduces the risk of disease and mortality, however, many dairy farms in Canada and the U.S. do not provide sufficient colostrum or nutrition to surplus calves. Transportation and marketing are also major issues. Calves can be transported more than 24 consecutive hours, and most calves are sold through auction markets or assembly yards which increases disease exposure. Management of calves at calf-raisers is another area of concern. Calves are generally housed individually and fed at low planes of nutrition, resulting in poor affective states and high rates of morbidity and mortality. Strategies to manage high-risk calves identified at arrival could be implemented to reduce disease burden, however, increasing the plane of nutrition and improving housing systems will likely have a more significant impact on health and welfare. However, we argue the current system is not sustainable and new solutions for surplus calves should be considered. A coordinated and holistic approach including substantial change on source dairy farms and multiple areas within the system used to market and raise surplus dairy calves, can lead to more sustainable veal and beef production with improved calf outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2021.661453DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8076512PMC
April 2021

A focus group study of Ontario dairy producer perspectives on neonatal care of male and female calves.

J Dairy Sci 2021 May 2;104(5):6080-6095. Epub 2021 Mar 2.

Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada, N1G 2W1. Electronic address:

Providing optimal calf care remains a challenge on many dairy farms and has important implications for the future health, welfare, and productivity of male and female calves. Recent research suggests that male dairy calves receive a lower quality of care early in life than female calves, but further investigation is required to determine the factors that influence this disparity. The objectives of this study were to understand dairy producer perspectives on neonatal calf care practices and explore differences between male and female calf care. Overall, 23 dairy producers in Ontario, Canada, participated in 4 focus groups about calf care practices that were recorded and evaluated qualitatively using thematic analysis. Major barriers for good calf care included lack of knowledge about the best management practices for calf care and the prioritization of farm resources toward the milking herd. Some producers also noted that farm infrastructure (particularly during challenging weather) and employee training were important limitations. The economic cost of providing good neonatal calf care was important primarily for male calves and acted as a motivation or a barrier depending on the producer's beliefs about calf care and how they chose to market their calves. The primary source of knowledge producers used to develop calf care practices was their own experience, although many also relied on dairy-industry advisors, most often veterinarians. Producers were motivated by social norms, along with intrinsic pride and obligation to provide good calf care, and these motives were influenced by their emotional state. Producers expressed beliefs about which aspects of calf care are most important-notably colostrum management-and appreciated simple and economical solutions to calf-rearing challenges. Calf care practices were varied, and we identified a diversity of knowledge, motivations, and barriers to adopting best management practices, which sometimes differed between male and female calves. Some producers said that they did not know what happened to their male calves after they left the farm and tended to prioritize the care of female over male calves in subtle ways, such as less timely provision of colostrum. The infrastructure investment and other costs associated with caring for male calves often limited their care, but producers were still motivated to provide adequate care for male calves. These findings represent potential targets for additional research and intervention strategies to improve calf care practices on dairy farms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-19507DOI Listing
May 2021

Risk factors for poor health outcomes for male dairy calves undergoing transportation in western Canada.

Can Vet J 2020 12;61(12):1265-1272

Animal Welfare Program (Wilson, Stojkov, Fraser), University of British Columbia, Vancouver V6T 1ZA; Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1 (Renaud).

The condition of 640 male dairy calves was recorded and their health deterioration, morbidity, and mortality evaluated after long-distance transport. Assessments included a health examination, weight estimation, and measure of failed transfer of passive immunity (FTPI). A McNemar Test and logistic regression analysis were used to evaluate the effects of pre-transport condition on subsequent health. Before transport, calf health and age at shipping varied between farms; overall, 17%, 8%, and 12% of calves had diarrhea, navel disease, and FTPI, respectively, and calves were transported at a median age of 5 days. In their first 2 weeks after transportation, 23% and 44% of calves were treated for diarrhea and bovine respiratory disease (BRD), respectively, and 4% died. Calves with navel disease, low body weight, and a depressed attitude at the farm of origin were more likely to experience negative health outcomes. Better health before transportation is needed to protect the subsequent health and welfare of young calves.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7659877PMC
December 2020

Hot topic: Health and welfare challenges in the marketing of male dairy calves-Findings and consensus of an expert consultation.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Dec 15;103(12):11628-11635. Epub 2020 Oct 15.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z6.

A diverse group of Canadian experts was convened for a focused 2-d discussion on potential health and welfare problems associated with the marketing (i.e., transportation and sale) of male dairy calves. Written notes and audio recording were used to summarize the information provided on transport times and marketing practices. Content analysis was used to develop a consensus statement on concerns, possible solutions, and recommendations to improve male dairy calf marketing. The group noted that calves across all Canadian regions are commonly transported at 3 to 7 d of age and undergo transport for 12 to 24 h or longer depending on the location of their dairy farm of origin. Calves in some regions are marketed almost exclusively through auction markets, whereas others have more direct sales. A need was identified for better criteria for calf fitness for transport, maintaining farm biosecurity, reducing the use of antimicrobial therapy in calf production, and improving education for farmers and veterinarians on the importance of neonatal care for male dairy calves before transportation. Experts noted that major changes in male dairy calf marketing will be required to comply with amendments to the federal Health of Animals Regulations (Part XII) on animal transportation; collaborative effort will be needed to safeguard animal health and welfare as this transition is made.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18438DOI Listing
December 2020

Short communication: Condition of male dairy calves at auction markets.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Sep 16;103(9):8530-8534. Epub 2020 Jul 16.

Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1ZA, Canada.

Male dairy calves in North America are frequently marketed through live auctions. Calves have been observed in suboptimal condition both at auctions and upon arrival at calf-rearing facilities that supply the veal or dairy-beef industries. The objectives of this study were to describe the health of male dairy calves at a commercial auction in British Columbia, Canada, examine the relationships between calf price and condition, and use price data from other auctions to reflect more broadly on the variability in calf condition at auction markets. Price and breed were recorded for 1,624 male calves, and a sample of 355 calves was assessed using a standardized health exam and body weight estimation. Linear regression was used to assess which calf characteristics were associated with price. Prices for young dairy calves at auctions in 2 other provinces (Nova Scotia and Quebec) were compiled for comparison. Twenty percent of calves had at least one health abnormality; the most common was navel disease (12%), followed by ocular or nasal discharge (4%), a depressed (dull, unable, or unwilling to rise) attitude (2%), coughing (2%), and joint inflammation (1%). The mean (±SD) estimated body weight was 47 ± 8 kg with a range of 27 to 82 kg. Calves were sold for up to Can$370 (median Can$140), but 10.5% sold for Can$10 or less, and 2.8% were not sold at all. [The mean exchange rate over the course of this study (Oct. 2017 to Mar. 2018) was Can$1 = US$0.79.] Calves with a depressed attitude sold for lower prices than bright, alert calves. In addition, those with Brown Swiss or Jersey genetics sold for lower prices than those with Holstein genetics, and cross-bred calves with beef genetics sold for higher prices. During 2018, 62% of young dairy calves sold at the Nova Scotia auction and 18% of young Holstein calves sold in Quebec were classed as lower quality and sold for 23% and 40%, respectively, of the value of higher-quality calves. The results underline the need to develop solutions to reduce the risk of marketing calves in poor condition at auction markets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-17860DOI Listing
September 2020

Attitudes towards antimicrobial use and factors associated with antimicrobial use in western Canadian cow-calf herds.

Can Vet J 2019 04;60(4):391-398

Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5B4 (Waldner, Parker, Campbell); Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5B4 (Gow); Animal Welfare Program, Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4 (Wilson).

One hundred cow-calf producers in western Canada were surveyed to determine their perceptions regarding antimicrobial use (AMU) and how these perceptions and other herd management factors were associated with AMU. Veterinarians were the most important source of AMU information. Half of the producers considered antimicrobial resistance (AMR) when choosing antimicrobials, while 24% considered the influence of AMU on AMR in human health. Younger producers < 30 y were most likely to consider AMR when choosing antimicrobials. Injectable products were used for disease prevention in 17% of herds; 5% used medically important antimicrobials in feed and 6% in water. Use of injectable antimicrobials of very high importance to human health was reported in 34% of herds. Producers with higher calf mortality were more likely to report AMU in feed or water. The use of Health Canada Category I antimicrobials was most common when calves were retained after weaning.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6417609PMC
April 2019

Antimicrobial usage in western Canadian cow-calf herds.

Can Vet J 2019 03;60(3):255-267

Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5B4 (Waldner, Parker, Campbell); Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5B4 (Gow); Animal Welfare Program, Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4 (Wilson).

While ongoing surveillance and research initiatives have provided some information on antimicrobial use (AMU) in many livestock commodities, there are no recent reports for Canadian cow-calf herds. Antimicrobial use data were collected in 2014 for bulls, cows, and calves from 100 herds participating in the Western Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network. Lameness was the most common reason for treatment in cows and bulls, with oxytetracycline being the treatment of choice. Herd owners were most likely to treat calves before weaning with florfenicol, oxytetracycline, and sulfamethazine for respiratory disease or diarrhea. The most frequently reported reason for antimicrobial use in weaned calves was respiratory disease and the most reported product was florfenicol. While 98% of herds reported treating ≥ 1 animal with antimicrobials, most cattle did not receive antimicrobials for either treatment or disease prevention on participating cow-calf operations.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380250PMC
March 2019

Neospora caninum is the leading cause of bovine fetal loss in British Columbia, Canada.

Vet Parasitol 2016 Mar 12;218:46-51. Epub 2016 Jan 12.

The Animal Health Center, BC Ministry of Agriculture, 1767 Angus Campbell Road, Abbotsford, British Columbia V3G 2M3, Canada. Electronic address:

The protozoan pathogen Neospora caninum is recognized as a leading cause of infectious abortions in cattle worldwide. To evaluate the impact of neosporosis on dairy and beef herd production, a retrospective, longitudinal study was performed to identify the impact of neosporosis alongside other causes of fetal abortion in British Columbia, Canada. Retrospective analysis of pathology records of bovine fetal submissions submitted to the Animal Health Centre, Abbotsford, British Columbia, a provincial veterinary diagnostic laboratory, from January 2007 to July 2013 identified 182 abortion cases (passive surveillance). From July 2013 to May 2014, an active surveillance program identified a further 54 abortion cases from dairy farmers in the Upper Fraser Valley, British Columbia. Of the total 236 fetal submissions analyzed, N. caninum was diagnosed in 18.2% of cases, making it the most commonly identified infectious agent associated with fetal loss. During active surveillance, N. caninum was associated with 41% of fetuses submitted compared to 13.3% during passive surveillance (p<0.001). Breed of dam was significantly associated with N. caninum diagnosis, with a higher prevalence in dairy versus beef breeds, and fetuses of 3-6 months gestational age had the highest prevalence of N. caninum. There was no significant association with dam parity. N. caninum was diagnosed in every year except 2009 and cases were geographically widespread throughout the province. Furthermore, the active surveillance program demonstrates that N. caninum is highly prevalent in the Upper Fraser Valley and is a major causal agent of production losses in this dairy intensive region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.01.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4786301PMC
March 2016