Growth performance, feeding behavior, and selected blood metabolites of Holstein dairy calves fed restricted amounts of milk: No interactions between sources of finely ground grain and forage provision
ABSTRACT The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of grain sources and forage provision on growth performance, blood metabolites, and feeding behaviors of dairy calves. Sixty 3-d-old Holstein dairy calves (42.2 ± 2.5 kg of body weight) were used in a 2 × 3 factorial arrangement with the factors being grain sources (barley and corn) and forage provision (no forage, alfalfa hay, and corn silage). Individually housed calves were randomly assigned (n = 10 calves per treatment: 5 males and 5 females) to 6 treatments: (1) barley grain (BG) without forage supplement, (2) BG with alfalfa hay (AH) supplementation, (3) BG with corn silage (CS) supplementation, (4) corn grain (CG) without forage supplement, (5) CG with AH supplementation, and (6) CG with CS supplementation. All calves had ad libitum access to water and starter feed throughout the experiment. All calves were weaned on d 49 and remained in the study until d 63. Starter feed intake and average daily gain (ADG) was greater for calves fed barley than those fed corn during the preweaning and overall periods. Calves supplemented with CS had greater final body weight and postweaning as well as overall starter feed intake than AH and non-forage-supplemented calves. During the preweaning and overall periods, feeding of CS was found to increase ADG compared with feeding AH and nonforage diets. However, feed efficiency was not affected by dietary treatments. Calves supplemented with CS spent more time ruminating compared with AH and control groups; nonnutritive oral behaviors were the greatest in non-forage-supplemented calves. Regardless of the grain sources, the rumen pH value was greater for AH calves compared with CS and non-forage-supplemented calves. Blood concentration of BHB was greater for CS-supplemented calves compared with AH and non-forage-supplemented calves. Furthermore, body length and heart girth were greater for calves fed barley compared with those fed corn, and also in forage-supplemented calves compared with non-forage-supplemented calves. These results showed no interactions between grain sources and forage provision on calf performance; however, the inclusion of CS and barley in starter diets could enhance the growth performance of Holstein calves during the transition from liquid to solid feed.
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