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Effects of gradual and later weaning ages when feeding high milk replacer rates on growth, textured starter digestibility, and behavior in Holstein calves from 0 to 4 months of age

Dennis, T.S., Suarez-Mena, F.X., Hill, T.M., Quigley, J.D., Schlotterbeck, R.L., Klopp, R.N., Lascano, G.J., Hulbert, L.
Journal of dairy science 2018 v.101 no.11 pp. 9863-9875
Holstein, accelerometers, ad libitum feeding, average daily gain, body weight, calves, corn, crude protein, data analysis, diet, digestibility, ear tags, feces, floors, grass hay, ingestion, lipid content, males, milk replacer, neutral detergent fiber, oats, organic matter, rumination, starch, sugars, weaning, Netherlands
The objectives of this study were to evaluate calf performance, diet digestibility, and behaviors when feeding 4 milk replacer (MR) programs with different MR rates, weaning ages, and MR reduction steps. Male Holstein calves (n = 96; 40 ± 1 kg of body weight; 1 to 2 d of age) were housed in individual pens for 56 d. Feeding programs for MR were 0.66 kg for 35 d; then 0.33 kg for 7 d fed only in the a.m. (0.6 kg); 0.66 kg for 7 d, 0.82 kg for 35 d, 0.33 kg for 4 d in a.m. only, and 0.22 kg for 3 d in a.m. only (0.8 kg); 0.66 kg for 7 d, 0.82 kg for 7 d, 1.1 kg for 21 d, 0.82 kg for 7 d, 0.33 kg for 4 d in a.m. only, and 0.22 kg for 3 d in a.m. only (1.1 kg); and ad libitum allowance for 35 d, 0.82 kg for 7 d, 0.44 kg for 4 d in a.m. only, and 0.22 kg for 3 d in a.m. only (ad lib). Calves were fed a common MR [25% crude protein, 17% fat, dry matter (DM) basis]. A textured calf starter with whole corn and oats (20% crude protein and 39% starch, DM basis) and water were fed for ad libitum intake during the nursery trial. Daily behavior duration (rumination, eating, and activity) was continuously recorded from d 1 to 55 for 4 calves/treatment using ear tag accelerometers (CowManager SensOor; Agis, Harmelen, the Netherlands). All calves were moved into groups by MR program (4 calves/pen) at 56 d and fed the same starter blended with 5% grass hay. Fecal samples were collected from individual calves between d 52 to 56 and from pen floors on d 66 to 70 to estimate total-tract digestibility. Data were analyzed as a randomized complete block design with repeated measures when appropriate. Intake of MR averaged 25.3, 35.3, 40.9, and 46.5 kg of DM per calf for 0.6 kg, 0.8 kg, 1.1 kg, and ad lib treatments, respectively. Starter intake was greatest for 0.6 kg compared with others and average daily gain (ADG) differed among all 4 programs with 0.6 kg < 0.8 kg < 1.1 kg < ad lib during d 0 to 56. Intake of MR for ad lib was highly variable and was reflected in ADG. Daily rumination, eating, and activity durations did not differ among treatments from d 1 to 55 of the nursery trial. Digestibility of DM, organic matter, acid and neutral detergent fiber, and sugar at d 52 to 56 were greater for 0.6 kg versus ad lib. Digestibility of DM at d 66 to 70 differed for all treatments with 0.6 kg > 0.8 kg > 1.1 kg > ad lib and was mostly influenced by fiber digestibility. During the grower trial (d 56 to 112), ADG was greater for 0.6 kg versus 1.1 kg and ad lib. Hip width change was greater for 0.6 kg versus other treatments. Feeding more than 0.6 kg/d of MR increased ADG preweaning, but reduced diet digestibility postweaning resulted in similar calf BW and frame size by 4 mo of age among MR feeding programs.