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Performance, rumen fermentation and blood metabolites of dairy calves fed starter mixtures supplemented with herbal plants, essential oils or monensin

Akbarian‐Tefaghi, M., Ghasemi, E., Khorvash, M.
Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition 2018 v.102 no.3 pp. 630-638
Eucalyptus, Holstein, acetates, additives, ammonium nitrogen, average daily gain, blood, butyrates, celery, dairy calves, essential oils, feed conversion, glucose, malondialdehyde, metabolites, monensin, pH, propionic acid, rumen, rumen fermentation, thyme, whole milk
This study evaluated the supplementation effects of three herbal plants (thyme [THY], eucalyptus [EUC] and celery [CEL]), a commercial phytogenic additive ‎containing essential oils (PFA‐EO, Digestarom® P.E.P.) and monensin (MON) in calf starter on performance, rumen fermentation and blood metabolites during pre‐ (days 3–55) and post‐weaning (days 56–70). Sixty‐six Holstein dairy calves (3 days of age, 41.2 ± 3 kg of BW) were allocated to one of six starters supplemented with: (i) no additives (CON), (ii) MON (30 mg/kg), (iii) THY (23 g/kg), (iv) CEL (23 g/kg), (v) EUC (23 g/kg) and (vi) PFA‐EO (3 g/kg). All the calves were offered starters ad libitum plus 6 L of whole milk daily. Starter intake tended to be the highest in calves fed PFA‐EO and THY; intermediate in calves fed CON, MON and EUC; and the lowest in those fed CEL. Average daily gain (ADG) and feed efficiency (FE) remained unaffected by dietary treatments during the pre‐weaning. During the post‐weaning period, ADG and FE ‎were greatest in calves fed EUC followed by those fed CON, MON, PFA‐EO and THY, and then in those fed CEL. No differences were observed among the treatments in skeletal growth, faecal score, rumen pH or ammonia‐N concentration. Compared to calves fed CON and MON, those fed the herbal plants or PFA‐EO tended to recorded higher molar proportions of acetate and butyrate, and the acetate: propionate ratio. Blood malondialdehyde level did not differ among treatments, but calves on CON had the highest glucose concentration, and those fed PFA‐EO recorded the highest value for β‐hydroxyl butyrate on day 70. In conclusion, the results indicate that the three herbs and PFA‐EO are capable of modulating some of the rumen fermentation parameters and blood metabolites as well as eucalyptus could potentially be a better alternative to monensin for improving post‐weaning performance.