Evaluation of a Forefront Weight Scale from an Automated Calf Milk Feeder for Holstein and Crossbred Dairy and Dairy–Beef Calves

Kirsten T. Sharpe, Bradley J. Heins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recording of body weights of dairy calves may assist producers in monitoring the health status of calves and making feed-related management decisions. Traditional methods of weighing calves can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. The objective of this study was to evaluate a forefront weight scale on stalls attached to an automated calf milk feeder system to determine the accuracy for measuring the calf body weights of Holstein and crossbred dairy calves. The study was conducted at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN, dairy. Eighty-eight Holstein and crossbred calves were fed either 8 L/d or ad libitum milk from September 2019 to February 2020 and March 2020 to July 2020. Crossbred calves were Grazecross crossbreds composted of Jersey, Viking Red, and Normande, ProCross crossbreds composed of Holstein, Montbéliarde, and Viking Red, Limousin-sired crossbred dairy × beef bull calves, and Limousin-sired crossbred dairy × beef heifer calves. The Limousin-sired calves were from Holstein or crossbred dams. Calves were introduced to the Holm & Laue Calf Expert and Hygiene Station automatic calf feeder (Holm & Laue GmbH & Co. KG, Westerrönfeld, Germany) at 5 days of age and were weaned at 56 d. Forefront weight scales were attached to four hygiene station feeding stalls on the automated calf milk feeder, and calves were required to place both front hooves on the scale to access milk. The calf weights from the automated milk feeder were compared to the gold standard calibrated electronic scale (Avery Weigh-Tronix LLC, Fairmont, MN scale). Calves were weighed once per week using the electronic scale, and those weights were compared to the most recent weight recorded by the forefront scale. The associations of the weights from the automated milk feeder scale and the electronic scale were determined with Pearson correlations (PROC CORR of SAS) and Bland–Altman plots (PROC SGPLOT of SAS). Furthermore, PROC GLM of SAS was used to regress the electronic scale body weight on the forefront weight scale body weight for each calf. A total of 600 weight observations were used for statistical analysis. The Pearson correlation of the electronic scale compared to the forefront weight scale was high (0.991), and the concordance correlation coefficient was high (0.987). Correlations for individual calves ranged from 0.852 to 0.999 and were classified as high. Correlations of the electronic scale and forefront weight scale for breed groups ranged from 0.990 to 0.994. The slope of the regression line was 0.9153, and the 95% confidence interval was between 0.906 and 0.925. A mean bias of 0.529 kg was observed from the Bland–Altman plots. The results suggest that there is potential for the forefront weight scale to be used on automated calf milk feeders to accurately record the body weights of calves and support management decision-making, identify sick calves, and help producers determine the proper dosage of medications for calves based on body weight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1752
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • automated milk feeder
  • body weight
  • calves
  • crossbreeding

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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