Comparison and inter-observer reliability between a Visual Analogue Scale and the Wisconsin Calf Health Scoring Chart for detection of respiratory disease in dairy calves

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Respiratory disease is an ongoing challenge for calves in the dairy sector with a relatively high prevalence and impact on welfare and economics. Applying scoring protocols for detecting respiratory disease requires that they are easily implemented, consistent between observers and fast to use in daily management. This study was conducted in one Danish dairy farm from September 2020 through January 2021. The study included 126 heifer calves enrolled in the age of 17 to 24 d. All calves were observed every second day for a period of 46 d. At each visit all calves were scored with a new Visual Analog Scale (VAS) and the Wisconsin Calf Health Scoring Chart (WCHSC). We calculated agreement between the 2 scoring systems based on conditional probability to score higher or lower than a cut-off in the VAS compared with a specified cut-off in WCHSC used as reference test. A generalized mixed effects regression model was performed to develop a model that could estimate the prevalence of respiratory disease and the overall agreement between the 2 scoring systems. The overall agreement between the VAS and WCHSC was 89.6%. The second part of the study assessed inter-observer reliability between 2 experienced observers and between an experienced observer and veterinary students. The inter-observer reliability was calculated by intra-class correlation coefficient and was 0.58 between experienced observers and was 0.34 between an experienced observer and veterinary students indicating a moderate to poor reliability between the observers. It was possible to use VAS as an alternative clinical scoring method, which primarily focuses on the general condition of the individual calf rather than specific categories of clinical signs. Our study set up lacked a comparison to other diagnostic tools i.e., thoracic ultrasound to confirm the findings which should be considered in future studies when exploring VAS as a screening tool for detection of respiratory disease in dairy calves.

Translated title of the contributionSammenligning og mellem-observer pålidelighed mellem en visuel analog skala og Wisconsin kalvesundhedsscoreskema til påvisning af luftvejssygdom hos malkekvægskalve
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)1102-1109
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2023, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. and Fass Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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