Interactions of alfalfa hay and sodium propionate on dairy calf performance and rumen development.J Dairy Sci 2014; 97(4):2270-80JD
The objective of this experiment was to investigate the effects of different levels of alfalfa hay (AH) and sodium propionate (Pro) added to starter diets of Holstein calves on growth performance, rumen fermentation characteristics, and rumen development. Forty-two male Holstein calves (40±2kg of birth weight) were used in a complete randomized design with a 3×2 factorial arrangement of treatments. Dietary treatments were as follows: (1) control = concentrate only; (2) Pro = concentrate with 5% sodium propionate [dry matter (DM) basis]; (3) 5% AH = concentrate + 5% alfalfa hay (DM basis); (4) 5% AH + Pro = concentrate + 5% alfalfa hay + 5% sodium propionate (DM basis); (5) 10% AH = concentrate + 10% alfalfa hay (DM basis); and (6) 10% AH + Pro = concentrate + 10% alfalfa hay + 5% sodium propionate (DM basis). All calves were housed in individual pens bedded with sawdust until 10wk of age. They were given ad libitum access to water and starter throughout the experiment and were fed 2L of milk twice daily. Dry matter intake was recorded daily and body weight weekly. Calves from the control, 10% AH, and 10% AH + Pro treatments were euthanized after wk 10, and rumen wall samples were collected. Feeding of forage was found to increase overall dry matter intake, average daily gain, and final weight; supplementing sodium propionate had no effect on these parameters. Calves consuming forage had lower feed efficiency than those on the Pro diet. Rumen fluid in calves consuming forage had higher pH and greater concentrations of total volatile fatty acids and molar acetate. Morphometric parameters of the rumen wall substantiated the effect of AH supplementation, as plaque formation decreased macroscopically. Overall, the interaction between forage and sodium propionate did not affect calf performance parameters measured at the end of the experiment. Furthermore, inclusion of AH in starter diets positively enhanced the growth performance of male Holstein calves and influenced both the macroscopic and microscopic appearances of the rumen wall. These benefits, however, were small when only sodium propionate was offered.