Performance, nutritional behavior, and metabolic responses of calves supplemented with forage depend on starch fermentability.J Dairy Sci 2018; 101(8):7061-7072JD
This study evaluated the interactive effects of forage provision on performance, nutritional behavior, apparent digestibility, rumen fermentation, and blood metabolites of dairy calves when corn grains with different fermentability were used. Sixty 3-d-old Holstein calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatments in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement. Dietary treatments were (1) steam-flaked (SF) corn without alfalfa hay (AH) supplementation (SF-NO), (2) SF corn with AH supplementation (SF-AH), (3) cracked (CR) corn without AH supplementation (CR-NO), and (4) CR corn with AH supplementation (CR-AH). All calves received the same amount of pasteurized whole milk and weaned on d 56 of the experiment; the study was terminated on d 70. Steam-flaked corn contained higher amounts of gelatinized starch in comparison with cracked corn (44.1 vs. 12.5% of total starch, respectively). Starter intake was not affected by corn processing methods or AH provision during the pre- or postweaning periods. However, we noted an interaction between corn processing methods and forage supplementation for starter intake during d 31 to 50 of the experiment, where calves fed on SF-AH starter had greater starter intake than those fed SF-NO starter, but the starter intake was not different between CR-NO and CR-AH fed calves. Furthermore, AH increased average daily gain (ADG) of calves fed an SF-based diet but not in calves fed a CR-based diet during the preweaning and overall periods. Interaction between forage provision and time was significant for ADG and feed efficiency, as calves supplemented with forage had higher ADG (0.982 vs. 0.592, respectively) and feed efficiency compared with forage unsupplemented calves at the weaning week. Forage supplementation resulted in more stable ruminal condition compared with nonforage-fed calves, as evidenced by higher ruminal pH (5.71 vs. 5.29, respectively) at postweaning and lower non-nutritive oral behavior around weaning time (55 vs. 70.5 min, respectively). The concentration of blood β-hydroxybutyrate was also greater in calves supplemented with forage than in unsupplemented calves. Results of the present study indicated that performance response and skeletal growth were the same between 2 corn processing methods. Forage provision improved ADG of calves fed the SF-based diet, but not the CR-based diet throughout the study.