Sensitivity and specificity of on-farm scoring systems and nasal culture to detect bovine respiratory disease complex in preweaned dairy calves

William J. Love, Terry W Lehenbauer, Alison L. Van Eenennaam, Christiana M. Drake, Philip H Kass, Thomas B Farver, Sharif S Aly

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The California (CA) and Wisconsin (WI) clinical scoring systems have been proposed for bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) detection in preweaned dairy calves. The screening sensitivity (SSe), for estimating BRDC prevalence in a cohort of calves, diagnostic sensitivity (DSe), for confirming BRDC in ill calves, and specificity (Sp) were estimated for each of the scoring systems, as well as for nasal swab cultures for aerobic bacteria and mycoplasma species. Thoracic ultrasound and auscultation were used as the reference standard tests interpreted in parallel. A total of 536 calves (221 with BRDC and 315 healthy) were sampled from 5 premises in California. The SSe of 46.8%, DSe of 72.6%, and Sp of 87.4% was determined for the CA system. The SSe of 46.0%, DSe of 71.1%, and Sp of 91.2% was determined for the WI system. For aerobic culture, the SSe was 43.4%, DSe was 52.6%, and Sp was 71.3%; for Mycoplasma spp. culture, the SSe was 57.5%, DSe was 68.9%, and Sp was 59.7%. The screening and diagnostic sensitivities of the scoring systems were not significantly different but the Sp of the WI system was greater by 3.8%. Scoring systems can serve as rapid on-farm tools to determine the burden of BRDC in preweaned dairy calves. However, users may expect the SSe to be less than the DSe when confirming BRDC in an ill calf.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-128
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016



  • Bovine respiratory disease
  • pneumonia
  • preweaned dairy calves
  • screening tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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