Effects of Feeding Levels of Starter on Weaning Age, Performance, Nutrient Digestibility and Health Parameters in Holstein Dairy Calves

Article information

Asian-Australas J Anim Sci.. 2013;26(6):827-830
College of Animal Life Sciences, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon, 200-701, Korea
*Corresponding Author: KyungIl Sung. Tel: +82-33-250-8635, Fax: +82-33-242-4540, E-mail: kisung@kangwon.ac.kr
1

Department of Animal Science, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Iran.

2

Department of Zoology, University of Otago, 340 Great King Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand.

3

Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University Putra Malaysia, 43400, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia.

Received 2012 December 19; Accepted 2013 February 24; Revised 2013 March 15.

Abstract

To evaluate the effects of feeding four different levels of starter in male Holstein dairy calves, a completely randomized study was conducted, using 28 calves with initial body weight of 40.5±2.4 kg. The animals were fed iso-nitrogenous starter and were weaned when they consumed 350, 500, 650 and 800 g/d of starter for 3 d consecutively. Starter and water were available ad-libitum throughout the experiment. Body weight at pre-weaning (less than 5 wk) and post-weaning (8 wk) was lower in calves that received 350 g/d of starter than in the other treatments (p<0.05). Feed conversion ratio (FCR) was the highest among all treatments in pre-weaning period (p<0.05). Dry matter intake (DMI) at weaning and total DMI was higher in that calves received 800 g/d of starter compared with other treatments (p<0.05). Calves fed 350 and 500 g/d of starter were weaned earlier (p<0.05) and showed lower milk consumption (kg, DM) compared with other treatments whereas no significant difference was observed between calves fed 350 and 500 g/d of starter (p>0.05). Dry matter, organic matter and crude protein digestibilities were lower in calves that received 350 g/d of starter compared with other treatments (p<0.05). No differences were observed in acid detergent and neutral detergent fiber digestibility among all treatments (p>0.05).Treatments had no significant effect on time of starting rumination, respiratory score, and days of drug administration for pneumonia. There were no meaningful differences in feces, fecal odor scores, body temperature, and days of drug administration for diarrhea among all treatments (p>0.05). Total dry matter intake at the end of experiment showed no significant difference among calves fed 600 and 800 g/d of starter, but calves fed 350 and 500 g/d of starter showed more dry matter (DM) intake than calves in the 600 and 800 g/d groups (p<0.05).

INTRODUCTION

Calves could be weaned after they consume a specific amount of starter in a specific period of time, mostly 2 to 3 d continuously (Morrill et al., 1995; Abdelgadir et al., 1996). Coverdale et al. (2004) started their weaning when all calves were consuming 450 g of starter on d 52 of the trial. Franklin et al. (2003) started the weaning process when calves had consumed 680 g of starter/d for 2 d, consecutively. Appleman and Owen (1975) reported that the predetermined dry feed intake (DFI) used to set up the weaning of dairy calves ranged from 454 to 908 g/d. Leaver and Yarrow (1972) weaned calves at three different dry feed intake ranges (DFIR). Those researchers inferred that a DFIR of 400 g/d for 3 consecutive d was adequate for calves and decreased days to weaning compared to a DFIR of 650 and 900 g/d for 3 consecutive d.

Time of weaning is a critical point in dairy calf breeding. Weaning at different times can affect performance and health parameters directly. Greenwood et al. (1997) reported that calves in the 1% treatment group (dry feed intake as a percentage of birth weight as a weaning criterion) met the weaning criterion earlier than did those in the 1.5% and 2% treatment groups. Limited consumption of milk is very useful for calf rearing management and decreases weaning age as it encourages calves to consume more starter before weaning (Davis and Drackley, 1998). Any decrease in weaning age could improve calves’ health, lessen diarrhea and consequently improves performance. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the effect of feeding levels of starter on weaning age, performance, digestibility and health parameters in dairy calves receiving ad libitum starter.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Twenty eight male Holstein dairy calves born between Feb and Apr 2010 were allocated to four treatments from birth to d 56. Treatments included: weaning after consuming starter at 350, 500, 650, and 800 g/d for 3 d consecutively. Calves were weighed and assigned to treatments after 3 d of birth and the ration used in this trial was according to NRC requirements for dairy animals (2001). Milk was provided in 2 equal feedings at 8% of birth weight per day prior to weaning and/or the first 3 d, calves received the same percent of colostrum as well. Calves were housed in individual hutches (1.5×2.5 m individual pens) bedded with straw. Water was offered ad libitum after 3 d when calves were assigned to the treatments. Starter was formulated to be iso-nitrogenous at 19.5% CP and 90.5% DM in the form of pellets. The ingredients and composition of the starter are provided in Table 1.

Experimental diet constituents and calculated composition of starter

Starter intake was monitored daily, and body weights were obtained at the time of weaning and at d 56. Amounts of starter and milk consumption offered and refused were recorded daily. Fecal scores were subjectively scored once daily using a scale of 1 = normal feces, 2 = soft to loose, 3 = loose to watery, 4 = watery, mucous, slightly bloody, and 5 = watery, mucous, bloody. Respiratory scoring was done once daily using a scale of 1 = normal, 2 = slight cough, 3 = moderate cough, 4 = moderate to severe cough, and 5 = severe and chronic cough. Also, fecal odor scoring was measured on the scale: 1 = normal, 2 = slightly offensive and 3 = highly offensive. Body temperature (using rectal thermometer) was recorded every week (Larson et al., 1977). All calves were monitored every day for the time of starting rumination. Feed and fecal samples were collected for 5 d after weaning (wk 8) for evaluating nutrient digestibility (AOAC, 1990). Feed residues were collected and weighed every day at 8 AM in the morning for each calf separately for 5 d. All feces were collected and weighed at 8:30 AM for each calf separately from individual hutches during these 5 d at the end of the experiment. Then all feed and feces for each calf were mixed together, a sample taken and stored (−20°C) for further analysis.

Data was analyzed using the linear model (PROC GLM) of SAS (1996). Differences were observed at p<0.05 and Duncan comparisons used for means evaluations. Data in the tables collected at weaning and the final data reported at d 56 (wk 8). Initial body weight as a covariate was included in the model when appropriate but was removed from the model when not significant.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Effects of treatments on body weight, dry matter intake and feed conversion

Body weights (BW) were recorded at the beginning, weaning time and the end of trial for all calves. In the pre weaning period, the differences of BW between treatments were significant (p<0.05). The higher body weight found in calves receiving 600 and 800 g/d of starter compared with calves receiving 350 g/d of starter might be explained by the higher dry matter intake (DMI) in these two treatments (Table 3). Difference in BW between calves receiving 350 and 500 g/d of starter was not significant (Table 2). Therefore, DMI in these two treatments was not different (p>0.05). This result is in agreement with the studies of Coverdale et al. (2004), Franklin et al. (2003), and Greenwood et al. (1997) who reported no significant difference in BW until wk 5. However, reduced BW gain after weaning has been reported by some researchers (Huber et al., 1984; Anderson et al., 1987; Luchini et al., 1991). Starter intake and growth rate in the post-weaning period were 5.8 kg and 0.45 kg/d, 4.1 kg and 0.65 kg/d, 4.2 kg and 0.77 kg/d, 3.4 kg and 0.75 kg/d for calves in 350 g/d, 500 g/d, 650 g/d, and 800 g/d groups, respectively. No differences were observed in BW at the end of trial between calves receiving 500, 650 and 850 g/d of starter and in FCR for all treatments as well. Only BW in calves fed 350 g/d of starter at the end of the trail was the lower and was related to their lower BW at weaning age. A poorer feed conversion ratio (p<0.05) in calves receiving 350 g/d of starter might be explained by a low DMI (Table 3) and a poorer health condition (Table 5). Coverdale et al. (2004) found no difference in body weight gain, average daily gain, and feed efficiency, in calves fed with ground starter compared to those fed a commercial coarse starter prior to weaning (consuming 450 g/d of starter). Average daily gains of male calves from birth to 30 d, 30 to 60 d, and 60 to 90 d were 0.38±0.03, 0.93±0.03 and 1.01±0.04, respectively (Arrayet et al., 2002).

Effects of levels of starter on total DMI (milk and starter), days to weaning and time of starting rumination

Effects of levels of starter on body weight and feed conversion

Effects of levels of starter on health parameters

DMI at weaning age in calves receiving 350 g/d of starter differed (p<0.05) in comparison with calves receiving 600 and 800 g/d of starter, but no difference (p>0.05) was observed in DMI between calves receiving 350 and 500 g/d of starter (Table 3). This may be due to the time taken to achieve weaning age in calves receiving 350 and 500 g/d of starter. But, it is clear that weaning age in calves receiving 350 g/d of starter was the youngest among all treatments (p<0.05). Calves that weaned earlier had less time to consume starter and milk before weaning compared with the others. Lower DMI and BW in calves receiving 350 g/d of starter also might be explained by lower dry matter, organic matter and crude protein digestibility in this treatment (Table 4). Consequently, more nutrients were available to calves receiving 500 or more g/d of starter (500, 650, and 800 g/d). Hence, these calves gained more BW than calves receiving 350 g/d of starter. Greenwood et al. (1997) reported the same result in regards to reducing weaning age by decreasing starter intake to 1% of initial body weight. Franklin et al. (2003) reported calves fed textured starter consumed more total grain, were weaned earlier, and weighed more at 6 wk of age than calves fed pelleted starter. Coverdale et al. (2004) found no difference in weaning age with respect to their treatments. Milk consumption (kg, DM) was lower in calves receiving 350 g/kg of starter than other treatments (p<0.05). Lower milk consumption in calves receiving 350 g/kg of starter might be explained by lower weaning age compare to other treatments (Table 3). No significant difference was observed between calves receiving 350 and 500 g/d of starter in milk consumption (p>0.05). No differences were observed in the time of starting rumination (p>0.05).

Effects of levels of starter on nutrients digestibility of feed

Effects of treatments on nutrients digestibility of feed and health parameters

Dry matter (DM), organic matter, (OM), crude protein (CP), acid detergent fiber (ADF) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility are shown in Table 4. DM, OM and CP digestibility in calves that received 350 g/d of starter was lower than the other treatments (p<0.05) but no differences were observed between calves receiving 500, 650, and 800 g/d of starter (p>0.05). Lower DM, OM and CP digestibility of starter could be due to the younger weaning age resulting in a lower level of starter intake in calves fed 350 g/d of starter. The calves’ rumens were not sufficiently developed when weaned as early as 25 d of age. No differences (p>0.05) were observed in ADF and NDF digestibility among all treatments (p>0.05).

Feces, respiration, and fecal odor were scored as health parameters. Body temperature, days of drug administration for diarrhea and pneumonia were also noted to determine if treatments had an effect on calves’ health (Table 5). Coverdale et al. (2004) reported that daily scores, electrolyte and antibiotic administration did not differ by treatments (p>0.05). The greatest incidence of fecal scores more than 2 occurred during wk 2 and 3 which is consistent with previous reports (Quigley et al., 1995; Franklin et al., 2003). Days of drug administration for diarrhea in calves receiving 350 g/d of starter was greater (p<0.05) than the other treatments. It can be illustrated by the earlier weaning age at 350 g/d and decreasing starter intake after weaning. Regarding to diarrhea, the fecal odor score of calves fed 350 g/d of starter increased and continued for 3 d even after drug administration. Following diarrhea, calves manure tended to be watery with mucus and their body temperature tended to decrease. There were no differences (p>0.05) between treatments in days of drug administration for pneumonia (Table 5).

We conclude that when calves are weaned only after consuming 500 g/d or more of starter their performance, nutrient digestibility and general health conditions are improved and their weaning age decreased. Therefore, the best time for weaning is when calves are consuming starter at 500 g/d (more than 1 percent of initial body weight) for 3 d consecutively.

References

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Article information Continued

Table 1.

Experimental diet constituents and calculated composition of starter

Nutrients % of DM
  Dry matter 90.5
  Crude protein 19.5
  Acid detergent fiber 5.8
  Neutral detergent fiber 13.1
  Calcium 1.2
  Phosphorous 0.7
  Organic matter 89.3
  Metabolizable energy (Mcal/kg) 2.3
Ingredients Percent (%)
  Corn 22.5
  Barley 26.5
  Soybean meal 20
  Cotton seed meal 9
  Canola meal 5.3
  Fish meal 1.7
  Molasses 4
  Wheat bran 7.2
  Sodium bicarbonate 0.5
  Calcium carbonate 1.35
  Calcium phosphate 0.35
  Magnesium oxide 0.2
  Mineral-vitamin premix 1
  Salt 0.4

Table 2.

Effects of levels of starter on body weight and feed conversion

Period Traits Level of starter* (g/d)
SE
350 500 650 800
Pre weaning Body weight (kg) 44.0a 46.8ab 50.9b 53.2b 1.82
Feed conversion 3.4b 2.9a 2.6a 2.2a 0.36
Post weaning (Week 8) Body weight (kg) 58.2b 64.4a 68.3a 67.9a 2.17
Feed conversion 2.6 2.7 3.2 2.6 0.47
ab

Means within the same row without a common superscript differ at (p<0.05).

*

Level of starter including 350, 500, 650, and 800 g/d.

Table 3.

Effects of levels of starter on total DMI (milk and starter), days to weaning and time of starting rumination

Explain Level of starter (g/d)
SE
350 500 650 800
DMI at weaning (kg) 13.3a 16ab 20.1c 24.2d 1.87
Total DMI (kg) 34.3a 39.6b 45.2c 51.1d 2.53
Week 8
  Weaning age (d) 25.3a 30ab 34.2b 35.6bc 2.17
  Milk consumption (DM, kg) 10.4a 11.8ab 13.7b 14.3bc 1.50
  Time of starting rumination (d) 26.3 23.6 22.6 25 2.57
abc

Means within the same row without a common superscript differ at (p<0.05).

Table 4.

Effects of levels of starter on nutrients digestibility of feed

Nutrients (%) Level of starter (g/d)
SE
350 500 650 800
DM 68.4b 79.0a 75.3a 76.5a 2.82
OM 70.4b 80.6a 81.0a 78.9a 1.92
CP 57.6b 65.7a 66.8a 65.6a 1.21
ADF 34.6a 37.1a 34.4a 35.6a 2.27
NDF 39.0a 36.9a 37.6a 38.7a 2.03
ab

Means within the same row without a common superscript differ at (p<0.05).

Table 5.

Effects of levels of starter on health parameters

Explain Level of starter (g/d)
SE
350 500 650 800
Fecal score 3b 1.3a 1.3a 1.5a 0.65
Respiratory score 1.3 1.2 1 1.2 0.23
Odor score 2b 1.3a 1.3a 1.2a 0.18
Body temperature 39.4b 38.9a 38.9a 38.7a 0.11
Days of drug administration for diarrhea 5b 2.5a 2.5a 1.5a 1.82
Days of drug administration for pneumonia 2 2 1 1 0.06
ab

Means within the same row without a common superscript differ at (p<0.05).