Is an individual calving pen better than a group calving pen for preventing transmission of Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis in calves? Results from a field trial

Patrick Pithua, Luis A. Espejo, Sandra M. Godden, Scott J. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to quantify the efficacy of using individual calving pens (ICP) from which manure was removed between successive calving compared with group calving pens (GCP) for limiting transmission of Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis (MAP) in Holstein calves. Every other pregnant cow in three Minnesota MAP endemic herds was assigned to calve in either the ICP or the GCP within 48-72. h prior to expected calving. Heifer calves born in the ICP were assigned to the intervention group (n= 238) while heifer calves born in the GCP were considered controls (n= 211). Calves were separated from their dams as soon as was possible once the calf was found. The intervention within the ICP relative to the GCP was the removal of fecal material in the ICP immediately after each birth. Upon enrollment in 2005, calves were monitored into adulthood. Of the original animals enrolled, 318 were tested for MAP at least once in 2007, 2009, or 2010 using serum ELISA (ICP, n= 165; GCP, n= 141) and bacterial culture of feces (ICP, n= 173; GCP, n= 145) tests. Cox regression analysis was performed to evaluate the time until MAP test positivity. Cows born in the ICP had a hazard ratio of 0.37 (95% CI = 0.34-0.4) for testing MAP serum ELISA positive, compared with cows born in GCP. Similarly, cows born in the ICP had a hazard ratio of 0.09 (95% CI = 0.06-0.14) for testing MAP fecal culture positive, compared with cows born in GCP. The Cox proportional-hazard assumption was violated in both models such that differences observed in the instantaneous hazards of MAP positive outcomes between groups (ICP vs. GCP) subsequently diminished overtime. These findings indicate that using ICP for calving delays exposure to MAP in calves and provides an effective strategy for reducing peripartum MAP transmission risks in herds attempting to limit the impact of paratuberculosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-404
Number of pages7
JournalResearch in veterinary science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013



  • Group calving pen
  • Individual calving pen
  • Non-randomized trial
  • Paratuberculosis

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