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Calf 911 – How To Evaluate Newborn Calves Using the Calf VIGOR Scoring System ▶️

Ideally, after a calf is born, things go well, and the cow and newborn calf thrive. However, it is important for producers to know how to assess calves for subtle signs of distress or trauma that can occur due to a difficult calving.  

Good vigor is a vital characteristic. A vigorous newborn calf has the best chance to remain healthy and productive within the herd.  

The calf VIGOR scoring system is a standardized exam that was developed to help producers evaluate newborn calves and determine whether early intervention measures are necessary.  

In the following video, Christine Murray-Kerr, PhD, from the University of Guelph walks producers through each step of the exam in the following video. 

VIGOR is an Acronym for the Five Objective Measurements of Calf Vitality:

  • V Visual Appearance: Yellow meconium staining on a calf as well as swelling in the head and face can indicate a prolonged birth. (0:50)
  • I – Initiation of Movement: The ability of a calf to get up and move will predict its ability to mother up and receive adequate colostrum. (1:27)
  • G – General Responsiveness: Reflexes such as suckling, head shake, tongue withdrawal and eye reflex reflect a calf’s vigor. (1:50)
  • O – Oxygenation: The mucous membrane or gum color is a good indication of how a calf is receiving and using oxygen. (2:35)
  • R – Respiratory and Heart Rates: Both the heart and lung performance can be easily assessed by counting the heartbeat and the breaths taken in 15 seconds, and then multiplying by 4. (3:00)

A calf vigor score of below 20 would indicate an immediate need to intervene to ensure that a calf gets adequate: 

Knowing the VIGOR score of each new calf will help to determine if, and what, early intervention strategies should be used to give the calf the best chance of survival and good productivity through to weaning.  

Calf 911 - calf vigor scoring

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