The objective of this case-control study was to determine if feeding behavior data collected from an automated milk feeder (AMF) could be used to predict neonatal calf diarrhea (NCD) in the days surrounding diagnosis in pre-weaned group housed dairy calves. Data were collected from two research farms in Ontario between 2017 and 2020 where calves fed using an AMF were health scored daily and feeding behavior data (milk intake (mL/d), drinking speed (mL/min), number of rewarded or unrewarded visits) was collected. Calves with NCD were pair matched to healthy controls (31 pairs) by farm, gender, and age at case diagnosis to assess for differences in feeding behavior between case and control calves. Calves were first diagnosed with NCD on day 0, and a NCD case was defined as calves with a fecal score of ≥2 for 2 consecutive days, where control calves remained healthy. Repeated measure mixed linear regression models were used to determine if there were differences between case and control calves in their daily AMF feeding behavior data in the days surrounding diagnosis of NCD (−3 to +5 days). Calves with NCD consumed less milk on day 0, day 1, day 3, day 4 and day 5 following diagnosis compared to control calves. Calves with NCD also had fewer rewarded visits to the AMF on day −1, and day 0 compared to control calves. However, while there was a NCD status x day interaction for unrewarded visits, there was only a tendency for differences between NCD and control calves on day 0. In this study, feeding behaviors were not clinically useful to make diagnosis of NCD due to insufficient diagnostic ability. However, feeding behaviors are a useful screening tool for producers to identify calves requiring further attention.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Animals, v. 12, issue 2, 170.

© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This research was funded by Food from Thought, Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

Related Content

This dataset is available for open access in a Mendeley repository doi:10.17632/djf4fkgp5w.1.