Nitrogen utilization, preweaning nutrient digestibility, and growth effects of Holstein dairy calves fed 2 amounts of a moderately high protein or conventional milk replacer


Studies have shown that calves fed milk replacers (MR) with crude protein (CP) concentrations greater than 20%, as typically found in conventional MR, have higher dry matter intakes (DMI) and greater average daily gains (ADG) but consume less starter, which can lead to stress during weaning and reduced rumen development. The greater amount of CP being fed to preweaned calves may alter their nitrogen (N) balance, and excess N may be excreted in the urine. The objective of this study was to determine N utilization in preweaned calves fed diets varying in the amount of CP and MR fed. This study used 24 newborn dairy heifer calves blocked by birth and randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatments: (1) 446 g dry matter (DM) of a conventional MR (CON; 20% CP, 20% fat), (2) 669 g DM of a moderately high protein MR (moderate; MOD; 26% CP, 18% fat), or (3) 892 g DM of a moderately high protein MR (aggressive; AGG; 26% CP, 18% fat). All calves had ad libitum access to starter and water. Both MR and starter were medicated with decoquinate. During weaning (d 43–49), the morning MR feeding ceased. On d 50, all MR feedings ended; however, starter and water intakes were continuously recorded until d 56. At 5 wk of age, urine was collected using urinary catheters for 3 d and chromium oxide was administered by bolus at 2 g/d for 7 d to estimate N efficiency. Calves fed MOD and AGG had similar starter intakes, feed efficiencies, and ADG, with the combined treatments having reduced starter intakes (258 vs. 537 g/d), greater ADG (674 vs. 422 g/d), and improved feed efficiency (0.57 vs. 0.45 gain:feed) compared with CON calves preweaning. However, DMI and water intake were similar across all treatments. Results from the N utilization phase showed that MOD and AGG treatments had similar but lower N efficiency compared with CON calves (45.5 vs. 52.7%). This could be due to MOD- and AGG-fed calves having greater urine volume and thereby, greater combined urine N output compared with CON calves (17.6 vs. 12.1 g/d). In summary, feeding >0.66 kg (DM) from a 26% CP MR increased ADG and improved feed efficiency during the preweaning period but reduced starter intake and lowered N efficiency.


Biological Sciences

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Journal of Dairy Science



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