Growth performance and health of dairy calves supplemented with flax and soy oil.

Document Type


Publication Date



American Dairy Science Association


Journal of Dairy Science




Suppl. 2






flax oil, dairy calf, growth performance


Our objective was to investigate supplementing flax and soy oil in milk and then on starter pellets on growth performance and health of dairy calves. Thirty-six female Holstein calves in individual hutches were used in a 12-wk randomized complete block design study. Treatments were (1) control (CON) with no oil, (2) 80 g/d of flax oil (FLAX), and (3) and 80 g/d of soy oil (SOY). Pre-weaning oils were fed with the milk and post-weaning were top-dressed on starter pellets. Calves were fed 2.83 L of pasteurized milk 2×/d during wk 1 to 5 and 1 × /d during wk 6. Pellets and water were fed ad libitum. Fecal scores (0 = firm, 3 = watery) and respiratory scores (healthy ≤3, sick ≥5) calculated from the sum of scores for rectal temperature, cough, ocular, and nasal discharge were recorded daily. Body weight (BW) and frame growth were measured weekly at 3 h post-morning feeding. Results were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS 9.4 with repeated measures. Significant differences were declared at P < 0.05. Dry matter intake (1792, 1487 and 1650 g/d; SEM = 79.5 for CON, FLAX, and SOY, respectively) was greater (P < 0.01) in CON than FLAX with SOY similar to both. There was a treatment × wk interaction (P < 0.01) with calves on FLAX eating less in the last 2 weeks of the study. Calf BW (69.8, 67.2, and 68.0 kg; SEM = 2.39) and gain: feed (0.58, 0.58, and 0.54 kg/kg; SEM = 0.03) were similar (P = 0.38) but had treatment × wk interactions (P < 0.05). The ADG (0.78, 0.71 and 0.76 kg/d; SEM = 0.05), body condition score (2.43, 2.47, 2.41; SEM = 0.027), withers height (82.1, 82.2, and 83.0 cm; SEM = 0.68) and other frame measures were similar (P > 0.05) among treatments. Fecal score (0.57, 0.64, and 0.70; SEM = 0.070) was similar overall but had an interaction of treatment × week (P < 0.01) with SOY having greater fecal scores during weaning and the last 2 wk. Body temperature and respiratory score were similar (P > 0.05). Supplementing flax and soy oil maintained growth performance compared with CON in the pre-weaning period when fed with milk, but decreased intake and BW during the last 2 weeks of the post-weaning period when fed with starter pellets.