Growth performance, nutrient utilization, and health of dairy calves supplemented with condensed whey solubles

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Journal of Dairy Science










Our objective was to evaluate growth performance, nutrient utilization, and health of calves supplemented with condensed whey solubles (CWS). Twenty-four Holstein calves (2 d old) in hutches were used in a 12-wk randomized complete block design study. Calves were blocked by birth date and sex. Treatments were (1) control (CON) with no supplement and (2) 50 g/d of CWS. Preweaning CWS was fed with milk and postweaning CWS was top-dressed on starter pellets. Calves were fed 2.83 L of pasteurized milk 2×/d during wk 1 to 5, 1×/d in wk 6, and weaned at d 42. Calves had ad libitum access to starter pellets and water. Individual intakes of milk and starter pellets were measured daily. 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 weights (BW), frame growth, and jugular blood samples were taken once every week at 3 h after the morning feeding. Fecal grab samples were collected in wk 12 for analysis of apparent total-tract digestibility. Data were analyzed using MIXED procedures of SAS 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) with repeated measures. Total dry matter intake was greater in calves fed CWS compared with CON. Calves fed CWS tended to have greater BW during the postweaning period. Gain:feed, average daily gains, withers heights, and concentrations of plasma urea nitrogen were not different. Concentrations of plasma β-hydroxybutyrate were greater in calves fed CWS compared with CON. Serum glucose concentrations were greater in calves fed CON during the preweaning stage, but similar concentrations were found between treatments during the postweaning stage. Rumen pH, ammonia-N, and total volatile fatty acids were similar between treatments. The acetate:propionate ratio was greater in calves fed CWS. The apparent total-tract digestion of nutrients was similar; however, CON tended to have greater digestion of neutral detergent fiber. Fecal scores were not different, but a treatment by week interaction was observed. Supplementing CWS improved starter intake, postweaning BW, β-hydroxybutyrate, fecal scores, and maintained frame growth.