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Performance of Holstein calves receiving equal quantities of milk at fixed or variable amounts per day during milk-feeding period

  • M. Khani (a1), F. Ahmadi (a2), M. Ariana (a3), S. Omidian (a4), S. Sharifi (a1), M. H. Ghaffari (a5) and H. Beiranvand (a4)...

Abstract

Two experiments were conducted to determine the effects of feeding equal quantities of milk during the pre-weaning period through different milk-feeding regimes on calf growth, starter intake and selected blood metabolites. In experiment 1, 44 female Holstein calves (3 days of age and 39.2±4.3 kg of BW) were distributed randomly to one of two milk-feeding programs (1 calf per pen; 22 pens per treatment group): (1) consistent (CONS; 6 l/day of milk from days 3 to 60 and 3 l/day from days 61 to 65 of age) or (2) step-up/step-down (SUSD; 5 l/day of milk from days 3 to 15, 8 l/day from days 16 to 40, 6 l/day from days 41 to 50, 3 l/day from days 51 to 60 and then 2 l/day from days 61 to 65 of age). No difference between treatments was observed in starter consumption, feed efficiency, hip width and heart girth. However, pre-weaning average daily gain (ADG) tended to be greater in CONS than in SUSD calves (0.78 v. 0.70 kg/day; P=0.07). Blood β-hydroxybutyrate at day 45 (pre-weaning) was lower in SUSD than in CONS calves (0.14 v. 0.21±0.013 mmol/l). In experiment 2, 26 male Holstein calves (3 days of age and 39.4±4.1 kg of BW) were assigned at random to one of two milk-feeding protocols (1 calf per pen; 13 pens per treatment group): (1) consistent (CONS; (7 l/day of milk from days 3 to 40 and 2 l/day from days 41 to 45 of age) or (2) step-down (STD; 8 l/day of milk from days 3 to 30, 4 l/day from days 31 to 40 and 2 l/day from days 41 to 45 of age). The milk-feeding program had no effect on the performance measurements, with the exception that ADG (days 15 to 30), starter intake (days 30 to 45) and heart girth (day 45) were greater in STD than in CONS calves. In conclusion, it appears that if the total amount of milk intake is held constant over the course of milk-feeding period, the method of milk feeding would have negligible effects on calf performance.

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