Stress is defined as any physical or psychological discomfort. Studies have shown that when animals are stressed, it results in reduced feed conversion, greater production of manure, a decrease in the level of immunity and an increase in the excretion rate of pathogenic bacteria in their manure. Every effort should be made to reduce stress during routine handling, loading, and transport of veal calves.
What happens to a calf that undergoes chronic stress? The calf will experience reduced growth, poor health and an increased risk of mortality. The immune system is the calf’s defense mechanism against environmental challenges. Chronic stress will also suppress the immune system, making the calf more vulnerable to disease.
There are three key management areas where producers can minimize stress, reducing a calf’s susceptibility to disease: