Rumen fermentation, blood metabolites, and growth performance of calves during transition from liquid to solid feed: Effects of dietary level and particle size of alfalfa hay.J Dairy Sci 2015; 98(10):7131-41JD
This study evaluated the effects of particle size (PS) and dietary level of alfalfa hay (AH) on rumen fermentation parameters, blood metabolites, eating behavior, and growth performance in dairy calves during transition from liquid to solid feed. Sixty newborn dairy calves (41 ± 2.5,kg of body weight) were used in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement with the factors dietary AH level (medium, 12.5%, or high, 25%, on DM basis) and PS (fine = 1mm or medium = 3mm, as geometric means) of AH. Hence, the dietary treatments were (1) medium level of AH with fine PS (M-FPS), (2) medium level of AH with medium PS (M-MPS), (3) high level of AH with fine PS (H-FPS), and (4) high level of AH with medium PS (H-MPS). Particle size of AH did not affect total DMI (TDMI) during the preweaning period, although TDMI was greater for calves fed MPS than in those fed FPS during the postweaning and overall periods. Calves fed MPS spent more time eating solid feed and ruminating and less time on nonnutritive oral behaviors compared with FPS calves. The dietary level of AH did not affect behavioral parameters. Average daily gain of calves was not affected by dietary treatment before weaning. During the postweaning and overall periods, average daily gain was greater in calves fed MPS than in those fed FPS at the 25% AH level, but this effect was absent with 12.5% AH. Furthermore, the rumen pH values on d 35 and 70 of the study were greater for MPS than for FPS, regardless of the dietary level of AH. Effects of AH level, PS, and their interaction did not affect blood glucose concentrations in developing calves. These results indicate that feed intake, feeding behavior, rumen fermentation parameters, and blood β-hydroxybutyrate concentration may be affected by rations differing in forage PS; thus, providing calves with MPS can improve calf performance and reduce their nonnutritive oral behaviors.