Effects of forage source and forage particle size as a free-choice provision on growth performance, rumen fermentation, and behavior of dairy calves fed texturized starters.J Dairy Sci 2018; 101(5):4143-4157JD
We investigated the interactive effects of forage source and forage particle size (PS) as a free-choice provision on growth performance, rumen fermentation, and behavior of dairy calves fed texturized starters. Forty-eight Holstein calves (42 ± 3 kg of body weight) were randomly assigned (n = 12 calves per treatment) in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments with the factors of forage source [alfalfa hay (AH) and wheat straw (WS)] and forage PS [(AH: medium = 1.96 mm or long = 3.93 mm) and (WS: medium = 2.03 mm or long = 4.10 mm), as geometric mean diameters]. The treatments were (1) AH with medium PS (AH-MPS), (2) AH with long PS (AH-LPS), (3) WS with medium PS (WS-MPS), and (4) WS with long PS (WS-LPS). Regardless of forage PS, the preweaning starter intake, dry matter intake, metabolizable energy intake, weaning body weight, and forage intake were greater for AH calves than WS calves. Average daily gain, average daily gain/metabolizable energy intake, feed efficiency, and final body weight of the calves did not differ among groups. An interaction of forage source and forage PS influenced acetate, propionate, and acetate-to-propionate ratio in the rumen on d 35, with the greatest acetate proportion and acetate-to-propionate ratio, but the least propionate proportion for AH-MPS calves than the other calves. The total volatile fatty acid concentration and the rumen proportions of propionate (d 70), butyrate (d 35), and valerate (d 35) were greater in AH-MPS calves than in AH-LPS calves. Calves fed AH had greater total volatile fatty acid concentration (d 35 and 70) and propionate proportion (d 70), but lesser ruminal proportions of butyrate (d 35 and 70), valerate (d 35 and 70), and acetate-to-propionate ratio (d 70) compared with calves fed WS. The ruminal valerate proportion (d 70) was greatest in WS-MPS calves than the other calves. An interaction of forage source and forage PS influenced preweaning standing time and starter eating time, with the least standing time for WS-MPS calves and the greatest eating starter time for AH-LPS calves. Calves fed AH spent less time for rumination, but devoted more time to non-nutritive oral behaviors than WS calves. Calves fed forage with long PS spent more time for rumination, eating forage, and spent less time lying and non-nutritive oral behaviors than medium PS. In conclusion, forage source and PS interacted, affecting behavior and rumen fermentation when calves were fed texturized starters. In addition, a desirable ruminal pH in dairy calves can be obtained with texturized starters.