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App helps score newborn calf vitality

UW School of Veterinary Medicine
Similar to an Apgar scoring system used to assess newborn human infants, the calf VIGOR scoring system is designed to be applied to calves shortly after birth to assesses their Visual appearance, Initiation of movement, General responsiveness, Oxygenation, heart and respiration Rates.

A new smartphone app can help producers assess the vitality of a calf soon after it is born.

The Calf Vigor Score app was developed at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine under the direction of Dr. Sheila McGuirk. The app is an iOS adaptation of the Calf VIGOR Scoring System created at the University of Guelph through research efforts of Dr. Christine Murray-Kerr and Dr. Ken Leslie, with considerable support from Boehringer-Ingelheim Animal Health in Canada. Dr. Sandra Godden at the University of Minnesota has been instrumental in extension education about the scoring system, as well as the organization and conduct of the major research effort in 2017.

Similar to an Apgar scoring system used to assess newborn human infants, the calf VIGOR scoring system is designed to be applied to calves shortly after birth to assess their Visual appearance, Initiation of movement, General responsiveness, Oxygenation, heart and respiration rates.

The input categories include meconium staining, appearance of the tongue, time to initiation of selective calf movements such as sitting, standing attempts, suckling, head shaking, tongue withdrawal after a pinch, and eye blinking. Mucous membrane color, heart and respiration rates are additional clinical signs that are assessed and assigned scores ranging from 0 to 3. The higher the score, the more vigorous the calf:

Calf VIGOR Scorer instructions

When the app is initiated, the user is prompted to enter a Herd Name and Scorer Name and Calf ID. This information helps to facilitate data storage and retrieval. Other calf information (calf sex, time since birth and calving ease) may be recorded as well.

The nature of each clinical sign (with the exception of mucus membrane color) is recorded by touching the slider and gliding to the left, stopping at the desired description. All signs are initiated as normal. The scorer must declare the sign abnormal and to what extent. The calf’s total score is reduced by each abnormal score. A note may be attached to the calf’s record by touching the Note button. A dialog will appear where you can enter the information pertaining to the calf currently be scored

After the calf is scored, touching the Save / New button will save the calf record and ready the app for a new calf. The Data button will display data on a separate view which can be emailed to facilitate record transfer from this app to another recordingkeeping program or sharing with a consultant.

Clinical signs that are assessed and assigned scores ranging from 0 to 3 are visual appearance, initiation of movement, general responsiveness and oxygenation. The higher the score, the more vigorous the calf

The Summary button displays a summary of the calves scored. The list selector in the lower right hand corner chooses what data is display in the data view on the home view as well as the data displayed on the separate data view and the summarized results of the calves scored. Choices are:

  • Herd Today – records for herd named and scored on date in Date text field
  • Herd All – (all records for a single herd named in the Herd Name text field)
  • All Herds – (all of the records stored in the app)

The Delete button will prompt you for the desired level of record deletion (All records stored, All records for a herd, or a date range of records for a herd).

Cost of the app is $2.99.

Colleen Kottke of the Wisconsin State Farmer contributed to this report.