Colorful research could help calves stay healthy


Colorful research could help calves stay healthy

A research project might soon bring some color to the calf barns and help farmers know when their animals need some extra attention.

Dr. Sylvia Kehoe

Dr. Sylvia Kehoe is a dairy researcher at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.  She tells Brownfield her team is just starting a new project evaluating calf urine as an indicator for metabolic acidoses, like what is being done to indicate health issues in a new cat litter brand. “It’s never been done in calves but we know it’s a correlation. It’s just never been actually shown. Then, you know, could we spread something in the calf pen and when that calf is having some issues, it turns a bright color and the farmer knows to pay a little more attention to that calf.”

Kehoe says ideally, they could develop a product that can be spread in the calf pens and would change colors depending upon a specific problem detected in the urine. “We’re not anywhere to the point of having a product but it’s just doing the correlation and proving that urine does show what the blood shows.”

Kehoe says if successful, the color changes can tell a farmer if more electrolytes, sodium bicarbonate, or something else might be necessary to keep that calf healthy.  She expects her team will be collecting data until early next year, and there will still be more research and development after the data collection phase.

Dr. Sylvia Kehoe discusses dairy calf research projects at the University of Wisconsin River Falls with Brownfield’s Larry Lee 4-19-22.