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    Probability (SE) of no response to < 50 N of force applied by an algometer perpendicularly to a 1-cm2 area on selected right (gray bars) and left (black bars) joints of apparently healthy 6- to 8-week-old male Holstein calves (n = 19) at a drylot beef cattle research facility. Response was defined as purposeful movement away from the stimulus. A probability of 1 indicates that none of the calves responded during any application, and a probability of 0 indicates that all of the calves responded during all applications. a–cValues with different superscript letters differ significantly (P < 0.05).

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Assessment of biometric tools for quantitative gait analysis in Holstein calves

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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.
  • | 5 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.

Abstract

Objective—To assess biometric tools for gait analysis in healthy calves by use of pressure mat sensors, a handheld algometer, and serial circumferential measurements of selected joints.

Animals—20 six- to eight-week-old healthy male Holstein calves.

Procedures—Calves were evaluated over a 4-day period. Gait analysis was performed by training calves to walk over a pressure-sensitive mat, which recorded quantitative measurements. An algometer was applied perpendicular to each joint until an aversion response was observed or a preset limit of 50 N/cm2 was obtained. Circumference measurements of the carpal and tarsal joints were obtained by the application of a flexible measuring tape to defined areas of each limb. Variability between joint circumference measurements and pressure mat variables were analyzed with a standard least squares means model. Algometer measurements were dichotomized, and logistic regression was used to assess the probability that a calf reacted to algometer-applied pressure.

Results—1 calf was removed from the study because of lameness. Mean carpal and tarsal joint circumference measurements were reliable and consistent among calves. Algometry results suggested that healthy calves were more sensitive to pressure applied to the elbow and stifle joints, compared with pressure applied to the carpal, tarsal, and metacarpophalangeal or metatarsophalangeal joints. Pressure mat variables of stance time and stride velocity varied greatly among calves, whereas impulse and maximum forces varied little.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Findings can serve as reference points for other studies and be used for comparison with results for calves with lameness or altered gaits.

Abstract

Objective—To assess biometric tools for gait analysis in healthy calves by use of pressure mat sensors, a handheld algometer, and serial circumferential measurements of selected joints.

Animals—20 six- to eight-week-old healthy male Holstein calves.

Procedures—Calves were evaluated over a 4-day period. Gait analysis was performed by training calves to walk over a pressure-sensitive mat, which recorded quantitative measurements. An algometer was applied perpendicular to each joint until an aversion response was observed or a preset limit of 50 N/cm2 was obtained. Circumference measurements of the carpal and tarsal joints were obtained by the application of a flexible measuring tape to defined areas of each limb. Variability between joint circumference measurements and pressure mat variables were analyzed with a standard least squares means model. Algometer measurements were dichotomized, and logistic regression was used to assess the probability that a calf reacted to algometer-applied pressure.

Results—1 calf was removed from the study because of lameness. Mean carpal and tarsal joint circumference measurements were reliable and consistent among calves. Algometry results suggested that healthy calves were more sensitive to pressure applied to the elbow and stifle joints, compared with pressure applied to the carpal, tarsal, and metacarpophalangeal or metatarsophalangeal joints. Pressure mat variables of stance time and stride velocity varied greatly among calves, whereas impulse and maximum forces varied little.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Findings can serve as reference points for other studies and be used for comparison with results for calves with lameness or altered gaits.

In cattle, lameness has been identified as a major welfare concern and cause of production and economic losses1,2; therefore, gait analysis has become an important area of research interest. Lameness can be difficult to identify and quantify in cattle.3,4 Results of 1 study4 indicate that only 25% of clinically lame cattle identified by trained lameness experts were detected by means of subjective evaluation by nontrained personnel. Subjective gait analysis is generally accomplished by use of a numeric rating or visual analog score,5 and the gait of each animal is assigned a score. Subjective gait analysis requires individuals to invest in training to become competent in evaluating lameness in cattle.6 Additionally, as the median size of cattle herds increases, daily monitoring of individual cattle for lameness is increasingly time-consuming and costly.6

Studies7–11 conducted to assess the association between subjective lameness scoring systems and objective measures of gait abnormalities in cattle have yielded variable results. In 1 study,7 a numeric lameness rating system correctly classified 35 of 38 (92%) cattle that were either clinically normal or had sole lesions.7 Results of another study8 that evaluated 15 periparturient primiparous cows for 4 months indicated that known hoof injuries contributed only 48% to the variance in subjective gait scores. Investigators of a study9 conducted to elucidate how observers perceive lameness and assign gait scores to cattle concluded that there was no apparent correlation between subjective and objective lameness indicators. However, VLSs are positively associated with increasing severity of lameness on the basis of assessment of pressure sensor and serum biomarker measurements.11 The extent of agreement for gait scores between observers, especially if those observers have different levels of experience, varies from 37% to 68%.10 This interobserver variability suggests that the use of subjective lameness scoring systems for evaluation of lameness in cattle needs to be interpreted with caution.

Because of the challenges associated with subjective lameness evaluation in cattle, research has focused on the development of more objective and quantitative measures for gait analysis. Objective gait analysis techniques condense data into spatial or temporal variables.6 Kinetics is the study of forces involved in motion12 and, when applied to the study of the gait of cattle, generally involves pressure mat sensors or force plate analysis.5 The use of a pressure mat sensor system can detect alterations in weight distribution and gait in cattle.11,13 Kinematics is the study of motion aside from mass and force. It evaluates the changes in body position over time12 and involves assessment of video recordings with motion analysis software. In lame cattle, force plate analysis has been used to assess weight shifting (ie, altered vertical ground forces), and kinematic analysis has been used to detect alterations in horizontal acceleratory and deceleratory forces.14 Results of a study15 conducted to evaluate how the weight distribution of dairy cows is affected by the extent of udder fill and advanced pregnancy suggest that changes in distribution of weight among limbs may be a more sensitive measure of lameness than visual gait scoring. Although an automated, real-time gait analysis system that included a pressure mat has been used to analyze the gait of dairy cows in commercial settings,6,16,17,a information regarding the normal variation in gait among individual animals is limited because most research has focused on detection of lame cattle. Understanding variations in the gait of nonlame cattle is necessary to better understand the kinetic and kinematic alterations of lame cattle and aid in the development and implementation of lameness detection methods that can be used in field settings.

In addition to gait analysis, other methods that can aid in the detection of lameness and pain in cattle in the field include measurement of joint circumference and pressure algometry. Joints often become swollen and inflamed in response to trauma or arthritis. A change in joint circumference can be an indicator of musculoskeletal disease, which may result in lameness. Because cattle frequently have a restrained response to pain or distress (ie, are stoic), novel methods such as pressure algometry have been developed to assess the severity of pain in those animals.3 During pressure algometry, a known quantifiable pressure is applied to the area of interest and the mechanical nociception threshold is measured.18 Investigators of studies19,20 conducted to evaluate the validity and reliability of pressure algometers concluded that, with proper training, algometer operators can consistently apply force to the area of interest and obtain reliable measures of the pressure pain threshold in healthy humans. The pressure pain threshold is the minimum transition point at which applied pressure is sensed as pain.20 Algometry has been used to assess the pressure pain threshold in sheep,21 horses,22–24 and cattle.8,25,26

Research regarding the assessment of locomotion in young calves is lacking, and to our knowledge, no studies have been conducted to quantify variation in gait variables among healthy calves. The objectives of the study reported here were to describe the variation in gait among healthy 6- to 8-week-old Holstein calves by the use of pressure mat sensors, direct pressure algometry, and serial measurement of joint circumference. We hypothesized that the use of those biometric tools would be useful for serial assessment of locomotion in young calves.

Materials and Methods

Calves—All study procedures were approved by the Kansas State University Animal Care and Use Committee. Twenty male Holstein calves between 42 and 59 days old were purchased from 2 commercial farms in Kansas. The calves were housed in a drylot at a university beef cattle research facility from July 22 to 29, 2011. At arrival to the drylot (day 0), each calf was individually weighed and administered ceftiofur crystalline-free acidb (6.6 mg/kg, SC, in the base of an ear). All ear tags from the farm of origin were removed, and new tags that were of consistent size and color were applied to the ears of each calf for identification purposes. Calves were fed a dairy calf complete starter grain rationc that provided 14.0% crude protein, 2.0% crude fat, 1.0% calcium, and 0.35% phosphorus on a dry-matter basis at a rate of 0.91 kg/calf/d. The calves were fed grain twice daily between 7:30 am and 8:30 am and between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm and had unlimited access to grass and alfalfa hay and automatic waterers.

Health and lameness monitoring—Calves were observed twice daily by the same veterinarian (CAW), who was trained to recognize respiratory disease and other clinical illness and lameness in cattle. During each observation, each calf was assigned a subjective clinical illness score on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = clinically normal; 2 = slight illness, mild depression, or cough; 3 = moderate illness, severe depression, labored breathing, or cough; and 4 = severe illness, moribund, or little response to human approach). Any calf with a clinical illness score ≥ 2 was considered abnormal, and that calf was excluded from the trial. Likewise, during each observation, each calf was assigned a VLS on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = no gait abnormalities observed; 2 = mildly lame with a gait abnormality observed [back level when standing but slightly arched while walking]; 3 = moderately lame with diminished use of one or more limbs and back arched when standing; 4 = lame with a deliberate gait, during which one or more limbs is favored, and a reluctance to walk; and 5 = severely lame with inability or extreme reluctance to bear weight on one or more limbs and reluctant to stand) as described.11 Any calf with a VLS ≥ 2 was considered abnormal, and that calf was excluded from the trial.

Biometric measurements—On study days 0 through 3, calves were acclimated to the biometric assessment procedure by means of a daily walk through an alley and chute system. On study days 4, 6, and 7, biometric measurements where obtained from the calves. Measurements were performed at the same time of day (7:00 am to 8:00 am) and in the same order on each day. Briefly, calves were individually weighed on a commercial scale that was located in the base of a chute, and the weight was recorded to the nearest kilogram. A halter was then placed on each calf, and the calf was led from the chute and tied in a specific area within a pen.

The circumference of each carpal and tarsal joint was measured with a flexible measuring tape. During measurement, each calf stood with its weight distributed equally among the 4 limbs on a hard, dry, flat surface that had good footing. The carpus was measured around the middle carpal joint immediately distal to the accessory carpal bone with the tape kept parallel to the ground. The tarsus was measured around the tarsocrural joint immediately distal to the lateral and medial malleoli of the tibia with the tape kept parallel to the ground. Measurements were recorded and rounded to the nearest 0.5 cm.

Then algometry measurements were obtained and recorded for each shoulder, elbow, carpal, tarsal, stifle, and metacarpophalangeal and metatarsophalangeal (fetlock) joint. The algometerd was fitted with a round, rubber-ended probe that had a contact surface of 1 cm2. The probe was positioned perpendicular to the joint (ie, pressure was directed at a right [90°] angle into the joint), and the amount of pressure was slowly increased until the calf responded (ie, withdrew the limb) or until a pressure of 50 N/cm2 (approx 5 kgf/cm2) was applied to the joint. This maximum pressure cutoff was chosen on the basis of thresholds determined in another study.24 Throughout the study, the algometer was applied by the same investigator (DEA), who had been trained in its use, to minimize the variation in the site of algometer placement and pressure application rate and angle for each joint.

Gait was objectively assessed by evaluation of measurements obtained from an automated, real-time gait analysis system.e Each calf was walked over a pressure mat sensore that had a sensor matrix (871.7 × 368.8 mm) with 1.4 sensors/cm2, which was placed in an alley that was constructed of portable gates and measured 60 cm wide and 10 m long. The width of the alley ensured that the calves could move freely in a straight line through the alley but were unable to turn around and that each calf's footfalls would strike the sensitive area of the mat. The mat and alley were covered with a 2-mm-thick rubber mat to ensure good footing and maintain a consistent walking surface. Each calf was videotaped as it walked over the pressure sensor mat, and data from the mat sensors were transmitted to the system's computer program. Each calf was repeatedly walked through the alley until it crossed the pressure sensor mat without stopping. The validity of each data collection pass (trial) was determined subjectively by visual assessment, and a valid trial was defined as a trial during which the calf did not stop or change velocity or gait when crossing the pressure sensor mat and each hoof stuck the mat at least twice.

Data collection and definitions of variables—For each trial, video was reviewed to match the sensor data with the appropriate limb, and stance time, stride velocity, and maximum force were determined. For each stride of each limb, stance time was defined as the time from initial contact of the hoof with the mat (hoof contact) to the last contact of the hoof with the mat and was measured in seconds. Stride velocity was the distance measured from the palmar or plantar aspect of the heel between 2 consecutive footfalls for a given limb divided by the time elapsed between hoof contacts for those 2 footfalls and was measured in meters per second. Impulse was the change in integral values of force with respect to time and was measured in kilogram-meters per second. Maximum force was defined as the maximum force recorded during the stance phase of each limb and was measured in kgf.

Statistical analysis—Because study calves did not have a uniform weight or body size, they were stratified into 1 of 5 categories on the basis of body weight at arrival to the research facility (45 to 50 kg [n = 4], > 50 to 55 kg [5], > 55 to 60 kg [3], > 60 to 65 kg [4], and > 65 kg [3]). Within-calf variability for the respective outcomes of carpal and tarsal joint circumference and various pressure mat variables was assessed with standard least squares means models by use of commercially available statistical software.f Fixed effects assessed in the models included calf identification, study day (4, 6, or 7), side of limb (right or left), orientation of limb (forelimb or hind limb), and weight class category. Because variability among calves was a primary outcome of interest in the study, model-adjusted mean estimates for individual calf joint circumference and pressure mat variables were used to create frequency histograms for each respective variable to describe the study population. Algometer measurements were dichotomized (ie, the calf did or did not react to ≤ 50 N/cm2 of applied pressure). Logistic regression by implementation of a mixed generalized linear model procedureg was used to assess the respective associations of calf identification, study day, and joint with the probability that a calf reacted to algometer-applied pressure. For all analyses, values of P ≥ 0.05 were considered significant.

Results

Mean ± SD calf weight was 58.0 ± 9.6 kg on study day 4, 60.9 ± 10.8 kg on study day 6, and 61.5 ± 10.6 kg on study day 7. On study day 5, 1 calf had a VLS of 3 and was removed from the study, thereby reducing the number of study calves to 19. The other study calves remained clinically normal without detectable lameness throughout the duration of the observation period.

Carpal joint circumference was significantly associated with calf identification and weight class category (Table 1). The model-adjusted mean ± SE carpal joint circumference was 22.6 ± 0.1 cm (median, 22.5 cm; range, 21.6 to 23.6 cm). Tarsal joint circumference measurements were significantly associated with individual calf, weight class category, and study day. The model-adjusted mean ± SE calf tarsal joint circumference was 23.4 ± 0.1 cm (median, 23.3 cm; range 22.2 to 24.5 cm). On study day 4, calves had a greater model adjusted mean ± SE tarsal joint circumference (24.1 ± 0.2 cm), compared with that on study days 6 (23.1 ± 0.2 cm) and 7 (22.9 ± 0.2 cm). The probability of response to algometer-applied pressure was significantly associated with joint but not calf identification or study day (Figure 1).

Figure 1—
Figure 1—

Probability (SE) of no response to < 50 N of force applied by an algometer perpendicularly to a 1-cm2 area on selected right (gray bars) and left (black bars) joints of apparently healthy 6- to 8-week-old male Holstein calves (n = 19) at a drylot beef cattle research facility. Response was defined as purposeful movement away from the stimulus. A probability of 1 indicates that none of the calves responded during any application, and a probability of 0 indicates that all of the calves responded during all applications. a–cValues with different superscript letters differ significantly (P < 0.05).

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 74, 11; 10.2460/ajvr.74.11.1443

Table 1—

Model-adjusted mean ± SD circumference of carpal and tarsal joints and mean ± SE maximum force generated during walking on a pressure-sensitive mat by apparently healthy 6- to 8-week old male Holstein calves (n = 19) at a drylot beef cattle research facility.

  Circumference (cm) 
Body weight category (kg)No. of calvesCarpal jointTarsal jointMaximum force (kgf)
45–50421.4 ± 0.4a22.3 ± 0.4a16.5 ± 1.0a
> 50–55522.2 ± 0.4a,b22.7 ± 0.4a,b18.2 ± 0.9a,b
> 55–60322.8 ± 0.4b24.0 ± 0.5b20.1 ± 1.1a,b,c
> 60–65423.3 ± 0.4b23.8 ± 0.4b19.2 ± 1.0b,c
> 65323.2 ± 0.4b23.5 ± 0.5b22.4 ± 1.1c

Within a column, values with different superscripts differ significantly (P < 0.05).

On study day 4, trials from 4 of the 19 calves were removed from analysis because evaluation of the videotapes provided evidence that the calves did not walk at a consistent velocity across the pressure mat. On study days 4, 6, and 7, trials for an additional 3 calves were removed from the analysis because the calves did not take 2 complete strides on the pressure mat, which prevented stance time and stride velocity from being calculated for all limbs. Thus, results for kinetic and kinematic variables represent data for 12 calves on study day 4 and 16 calves on study days 6 and 7.

Model-adjusted mean ± SD stance time was 0.62 ± 0.01 seconds (median, 0.62 seconds; range 0.49 to 0.73 seconds), and model-adjusted mean stride velocity was 0.81 ± 0.02 m/s (median, 0.81 m/s; range, 0.62 to 0.97 m/s). The model-adjusted mean velocity for the forelimbs (0.83 m/s) was significantly (P = 0.04) greater, compared with that for the hind limbs (0.79 m/s). The model-adjusted mean ± SD impulse was 8.4 ± 0.26 kg•m/s (median, 8.6 kg•m/s; range, 5.9 to 10.6 kg•m/s). The model-adjusted mean impulse of the forelimbs (9.4 kg•m/s) was significantly (P < 0.01) greater than that for the hind limbs (7.5 kg•m/s). Model-adjusted mean ± SD maximum force was 19.9 ± 0.21 kgf (median, 19.2 kgf; range, 17.6 to 21.0 kgf) and was significantly (P < 0.02) associated with weight class category (Table 1). Similar to mean velocity and impulse, the model-adjusted mean maximum force for the forelimbs (21.1 kgf) was significantly (P < 0.01) greater than that for hind limbs (17.4 kgf).

Discussion

To our knowledge, the present study was the first to evaluate carpal and tarsal joint circumferences, response to algometer-applied pressure, and kinematic variables as determined by a real-time gait analysis system in healthy calves. Results indicated that many of the measurements evaluated varied substantially within individual calves, which might limit the validity of comparing a single measurement from an individual calf with a reference range and suggests that establishing baseline biometric values for each calf and monitoring changes in those values over time may be the most effective method for detection of an altered gait. Many of the calves in this study failed to respond to algometryapplied joint pressure; thus, the use of algometry for assessment of lameness in young calves is not recommended. Although the findings of this study provided baseline information for various biometric variables in clinically normal calves, further research is necessary to determine whether those biometric variables are clinically applicable for the detection of lameness in young calves.

For the calves of the present study, carpal and tarsal joint circumference varied significantly among individual calves as well as weight class category. This variation in carpal and tarsal joint circumference might be associated with calf growth rate; therefore, the findings from this study should not be extrapolated to calves other than those with a similar age and body weight as the study calves. In addition to calf identification and weight class category, tarsal joint circumference was significantly associated with study day. This variation by study day may have been the result of the conical shape of the tarsal joint, which made it more difficult to consistently measure the joint in the same location, compared with the more rectangular shape of the carpal joint. In the future, when tarsal joint circumference is to be measured, the location for placement of the flexible measuring tape should be marked in some way such as shaving the hair or the application of tattoos at the measurement boundaries to ensure that the same area is consistently measured.

Comparisons of various joint circumferences between lame and nonlame calves or limbs have not been reported to our knowledge. Joint circumference in a lame limb might be increased, compared with that for the contralateral nonlame limb; therefore, for lame calves, measurement of joint circumference might be a valid method for identification of the affected limb. For example, in the present study, mean carpal joint circumference was 22.6 cm. A 1.5-cm increase in carpal joint circumference because of arthritis would result in a new mean of 24.1 cm, which is greater than the maximum carpal joint circumference (23.6 cm) measured in the calves of this study. Similarly, if the mean tarsal joint circumference (23.4 cm) increased by 2.5 cm, this would result in a value (25.9 cm) greater than the maximum tarsal joint circumference of 24.5 cm measured in the calves of this study. However, if the change in circumference of an abnormal or diseased joint is small, it is likely serial measurements of the joint would be required to quantitatively assess or enhance detection of lameness in cattle.

Algometry-applied pressure thresholds that induced a response in clinically normal humans27 and horses.22–24,28 have been reported for various body locations. In cattle, algometry has been used to quantitatively describe the nociceptive threshold for pressure applied to hoof lesions8 and before and after surgical procedures such as dehorning.25 In the present study, the proportion of healthy calves that responded to < 50 N/cm2 of algometry-applied pressure was significantly greater for the elbow and stifle joints, compared with that for the carpal, tarsal, and fetlock joints, which suggested that elbow and stifle joints were more sensitive to pressure than were the carpal, tarsal, and fetlock joints. Quantification of a nociceptive threshold for the evaluated joints by use of algometry was not a specific objective of the present study. The amount of force applied perpendicularly to a 1-cm2 area used as the cutoff for a response to algometry-applied pressure in the calves of the present study was determined on the basis of results of pilot trials, in which the operator could consistently apply a pressure up to 50 N/cm2 to a joint with the algometer, but was unable to consistently apply a pressure greater than that. Thus, a cutoff of 50 N/cm2 was chosen for this study to ensure consistency in data collection. One of the limitations of algometry is maintaining a consistent application of pressure until an evasive response is elicited. The stoic nature of the study calves, as determined by the high proportion of calves that did not respond to the algometry-applied pressure, regardless of the joint to which it was applied, surprised us. In the present study, calves were weight bearing when tested with the algometer. In studies23,24 involving horses, algometry was applied to non–weight-bearing limbs. Further research in cattle is needed to determine whether response to algometry varies when the limb in question is and is not bearing weight.

Several studies6,11,29–31 have used gait analysis to evaluate kinetic and kinematic variables in cattle, and although those studies6,11,29–31 and the present study were designed for different purposes, some similarities in the results are evident. For the calves of the present study, the model-adjusted mean stance time was 0.62 seconds, which was consistent with the range for mean stance time (0.69 to 0.93 seconds) reported by investigators of those other studies.6,11,29–31 Although it would seem intuitive that stance time would vary between lame and nonlame cattle, research results are conflicting. Findings of some studies6,29 indicate that stance time for lame cattle is increased from that of nonlame cattle, whereas results of other studies suggest that stance time for lame cattle is decreased31 or variable11 (ie, increased or decreased) from that of nonlame cattle. These inconsistent findings might be the result of individual or within-animal variability similar to that observed for the calves of the present study. Because consensus on the effect of lameness on stance time is lacking, more research is warranted to determine the usefulness of stance time as an aid in the characterization of gait changes in cattle.

The model-adjusted mean ± SD stride velocity (0.81 ± 0.02 m/s) in the present study was less than that (1.11 ± 0.0329 m/s and 1.2 ± 0.313 m/s) reported by investigators of other studies.15,29 Results of another study29 indicate that stride velocity was decreased by 2.7% for lame cattle, compared with that for nonlame cattle. If we assume that lameness would have a similar effect on the calves of the present study, the theoretical mean stride velocity for lame calves would be 0.79 m/s, a value that falls within the range of variation actually observed for the nonlame study calves. Thus, because of the inherent amount of variation in stride velocity among calves, it is unlikely mean stride velocity could be used clinically for the detection of lameness.

In the present study, the model-adjusted mean impulse and maximum force were significantly greater for the front feet, compared with those for the hind feet. Results of another study15 indicate that cows generally place more weight on their forelimbs (51% to 53%) than they do on their hind limbs (47% to 49%) when standing. The calculation of impulse includes a measure of force, which is a function of weight. Given that the forelimbs of cattle carry more weight than do the hind limbs, it follows that the front feet would produce a greater impulse and maximum force than do the hind feet. The model-adjusted mean impulse and maximum force in the present study (8.4 ± 0.26 kg•m/s and 19.3 ± 0.2 kgf, respectively) were less than those (56.14 ± 13.2 kg•m/s and 67.17 ± 11.4 kgf, respectively) reported by investigators of another study,13 most likely because of the relatively smaller size of the 2-month-old calves of the present study, compared with the size of the 9-month-old calves evaluated in the other study. In that study,13 the mean impulse was 33.9% less for calves in which lameness was induced, compared with the mean impulse for the nonlame control calves. If we assumed lameness would cause a similar decrease in impulse for the calves of the present study, the theoretical mean impulse for lame calves would be 5.5 kg•m/s, a value outside the range of impulse values actually observed in the nonlame calves of this study. Similarly, the mean maximum force was 22.1% less for calves in which lameness was induced, compared with the mean maximum force for the nonlame control calves in that study.13 Reduction of the mean maximum force observed for the calves of the present study by 22.1% would result in a theoretical mean maximum force of 15.0 kgf for lame calves, which is outside the range of maximum force actually observed in these nonlame calves. Therefore, impulse and maximum force might be clinically useful variables for the detection of lameness in calves, although additional research is necessary to validate this.

Results of the present study indicated that carpal and tarsal joint circumference varied minimally among healthy nonlame calves; therefore, extreme values could be indicative of joint abnormalities. Algometry results suggested that the elbow and stifle joints of the nonlame calves were more sensitive to the application of < 50 N/cm2 of pressure than were other joints such as the carpal, tarsal, and fetlock joints, and algometry might be of limited use to detect joint abnormalities or lameness. Stance time and stride velocity varied greatly within and among the healthy nonlame calves of this study; thus, evaluation of these 2 variables for detection of lameness during gait analysis in calves is not recommended. Conversely, the amount of variation in impulse and maximum force within and among calves was much smaller, which suggested that these 2 variables might be clinically useful for detection of lameness during gait analysis. Regardless, the findings of the present study can serve as a reference point for other studies and be used for comparison with calves with lameness or altered gaits.

ABBREVIATIONS

kgf

Kilogram • force

VLS

Visual lameness score

a.

Bahr C, Leroy T, Song Xiang Yu, et al. Automatic detection of lameness in dairy cattle by vision analysis of cow's gait. Agricultural and biosystems engineering for a sustainable world (abstr), in Proceedings. Int Conf Agric Eng 2008;OP-2025.

b.

Excede, Pfizer Animal Health, New York, NY.

c.

Medicated Calf Grower B-68, Farmers CO-OP Association, Manhattan, Kan.

d.

Mark-10 MESURLite USB/RS232, Wagner Instruments, Greenwich, Conn.

e.

Walkway Pressure Mapping System, Tekscan Inc, South Boston, Mass.

f.

JMP, version 5.1.2, SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NC.

g.

GLIMMIX, SAS, version 9.1, SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NC.

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Contributor Notes

Dr. Anderson's present address is Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996.

Supported by the Kansas State University Department of Clinical Sciences.

Address correspondence to Dr. White (bwhite@vet.k-state.edu).