Supplementation of sodium butyrate to postweaned heifer diets: Effects on growth performance, nutrient digestibility, and health


The objective of this study was to determine the effect of varying levels of sodium butyrate (SB) supplementation in feed on the growth, digestibility, and health of postweaned heifers. Forty Holstein dairy heifers with a mean age of 84 d and average body weight (BW) of 100.9 ± 11.2 kg were housed in a naturally ventilated freestall barn. Heifers were blocked by birth date and randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatments in a completely randomized block design: (1) 100 g of soybean meal carrier (control), (2) 0.25 g of SB/kg of BW plus carrier, (3) 0.50 g of SB/kg of BW plus carrier, and (4) 0.75 g of SB/kg of BW plus carrier. Carrier with or without SB was top-dressed and hand-mixed into a total mixed ration once daily. Heifers were fed to provide 10% orts. Initial BW, hip and withers heights, heart girth, and body length were measured before the start of the study and every week thereafter until the 14-wk trial was over. Blood samples were obtained and plasma urea nitrogen, plasma glucose, and whole-blood β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations were determined before the start of treatment and weekly thereafter until the conclusion of the study. Fecal samples were taken before treatment and every other week from each heifer for coccidia counts. Apparent total-tract nutrient digestibility was determined using acid detergent insoluble ash as an internal marker. Each heifer underwent this phase from d 47 until d 54 of the study. Sodium butyrate had a positive effect on average BW and overall BW gain. Feed efficiency tended to improve as SB supplementation increased. Coccidia counts were lowest in the treatment with 0.25 g of SB/kg of BW plus carrier. Sodium butyrate had no effects on skeletal growth or plasma urea nitrogen concentration. Blood glucose concentration decreased linearly and β-hydroxybutyrate increased linearly with increasing levels of SB supplementation. Sodium butyrate supplementation did not affect apparent total-tract nutrient digestibility. Sodium butyrate supplementation offers positive results in the growth performance and feed efficiency of postweaned heifers.


Biological Sciences

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Journal of Dairy Science



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