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Reciprocal combinations of alfalfa hay and corn silage in the starter diets of Holstein dairy calves: effects on growth performance, nutrient digestibility, rumen fermentation and selected blood metabolites

  • M. Kanani (a1), S. Kargar (a1), M. J. Zamiri (a1), S. M. Ghoreishi (a1) and M. Mirzaei (a2)...


Adding corn silage (CS) instead of alfalfa hay (AH) to the finely ground starter diet would improve calf performance if feed intake or feed efficiency is increased. We investigated the effects of replacing AH with CS in the starter diet on nutrient intake, digestibility, growth performance, rumen fermentation and selected blood metabolites in Holstein calves. Newborn male calves (n = 30; 3 days of age; 40.2 ± 1.28 kg BW) were assigned randomly to three groups receiving starter diets containing chopped AH (10% dry matter (DM) basis; AH diet), CS (10% DM, CS diet) or their combination (each at 5% level; AHCS diet). The starter diets had the same nutrient composition but differed in DM content (91.2%, 87.5% and 83.8% for AH, AHCS and CS, respectively). The calves were weaned on day 50, and the study continued until day 70. Nutrient intake, BW (at weaning and at the end of the study) and body measurements were not affected by the diet. During the post-weaning period, average daily gain tended to be greater on CS than on AH diet. Feed efficiency was greater in CS than in AH or AHCS calves during the post-weaning period. Digestibility of neutral detergent fiber was greater in AHCS and CS compared with AH during the post-weaning period. Concentration and profile of volatile fatty acids and ruminal fluid pH were not affected by the diet. Replacing AH with CS in the starter diet had no effect on feed intake, growth performance and general health of the calves. These results indicate that AH and CS can be used interchangeably in dairy calf starter diets until 70 days of age, allowing dairy producers more choices in selecting the feed ingredients.


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