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Accelerated pre-weaning growth rates in dairy calves: do antioxidants have a place?

McGrath, J. J.
Animal production science 2016 v.56 no.8 pp. 1275-1284
animal nutrition, antibiotics, antioxidants, dairy calves, dairy cows, heifers, lactation, milk production, parturition, production technology, weight gain
Accelerated growth of dairy calves in the pre-weaning phase has been shown to increase productivity of dairy cows during their lifetime. The increased weight gain during the pre-weaning phase is not the driving factor behind the changes in life-time productivity as the weight gained is inconsequential in terms of pre-lactation and weight gain. Furthermore, there are no differences in weight of heifers at the start of first lactation. The increased weight gain during the pre-weaning period must, therefore, initiate cellular changes within the animal. Research has focussed on increasing total nutritional supply or an increase in protein supply for promotion of such changes. The benefits of antioxidants in animal nutrition have been known for a long period of time. However, they have gained prominence with enforced reduction in use of antibiotics in many animal production systems. The role of antioxidants in nutrition of both the calf and the dam before parturition is critical for preventing disease and optimising growth weight of the pre-weaned calf. However, studies are yet to demonstrate a role, outside of preventive health, for the use of antioxidants in the pre-weaning period for increasing total life-time production of the dairy cow.