Veal calves undergo many challenges in the early stages of their life. Such challenges, including mixing procedures and transportation of calves to the veal farm, may have a negative influence on growth rate, feed intake, metabolism, immunity and disease susceptibility of calves. As a consequence, many hematological, physiological, metabolic and immunological parameters of stressed calves might be altered on arrival at the veal farm. Some of these response variables might be useful as biomarkers of performance of calves at the veal farm as they might provide information about an ongoing disease process, or may predict future diseases. Biomarkers might be helpful to group and manage calves in different risk categories after arrival. By adopting treatment decisions and protocols on a risk-group or individual basis, it would be possible to improve animal health and reduce both disease incidence and antibiotic use. Moreover, the use of biomarkers might be an economically feasible approach as some of them do not need invasive techniques and others can be measured in blood already taken during routine checks. Previous literature mainly assessed the physiological responses of calves to transportation. However, information on the link between on-farm arrival data and future health and performance of veal calves is limited. This review, therefore, examined a wide range of papers and aimed to identify potential biomarkers of future health and performance.
- Veal calves