Journal of Dairy Science (Feb 2022)

Effects of milk replacer feeding rate and frequency of preweaning dairy calves in the southeastern United States: Performance, abomasal emptying, and nutrient digestibility

  • Ruth M. Orellana Rivas,
  • Thalyane Rodrigues,
  • Jordana da Silveira E. Sousa,
  • Victor H.L.R. Melo,
  • Jing Gao,
  • Diego Ferreira de Araújo,
  • Juliana Goncalves de Souza,
  • Thiago N. Marins,
  • Pedro Melendez,
  • John K. Bernard,
  • Sha Tao

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 105, no. 2
pp. 1150 – 1169


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ABSTRACT: To evaluate the effects of milk replacer (MR) feeding rate (FR) and frequency (FF) on performance, abomasal emptying, and nutrient digestibility in the southeastern United States, Holstein calves (n = 48/season) were enrolled at 8 d of age (DOA) during summer [June to August, body weight (BW; mean ± SD) = 40.71 ± 4.35 kg] and winter (November to January, BW = 42.03 ± 3.83 kg). Within season, calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatments in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement including 2 FR [0.65 (low) or 0.76 kg of solid per day (high) of a 26% crude protein and 17% fat MR], and 2 FF [2× (0700 and 1600 h) or 3× (0700, 1600, and 2200 h) daily]. Calves were housed in polyethylene hutches and managed similarly throughout the trial. Milk replacer (12.5% solids) was fed to calves based on their respective treatments until 42 DOA, when MR allowance was reduced by 50% and offered once a day (0700 h) for the following 7 d until weaning. Calves remained on trial until 63 DOA. Calf starter and water were offered ad libitum. Ambient temperature and relative humidity inside and outside hutches were measured hourly. Starter and MR intakes were recorded daily. Respiration rate and rectal temperature were recorded 3 times a week. Structural growth and BW were measured weekly. Acetaminophen (50 mg/kg of BW) mixed with MR was fed to a subset of calves (0700 h, n = 10/treatment per season) on 20 DOA. Plasma was collected at 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, 210, 240, 270, 300, 330, 360, 420, and 480 min after feeding, to analyze acetaminophen. The acetaminophen concentration-time curve was modeled to the first derivative of Siegel's modified power exponential equation, and the time for plasma acetaminophen to reach maximum (Tmax) was calculated to evaluate abomasal emptying rate. During the pre- (14.9–17.9 DOA) and postweaning (51.0–54.0 DOA) periods, a subset (n = 8/treatment per season) of calves was used to determine the apparent digestibility of nutrients, using chromic oxide as the external marker. Feeding 3× reduced preweaning respiration rate during summer and reduced rectal temperature during winter. Increasing FR improved BW gain and structural growth. Feeding more times per day tended to improve growth during winter but not summer. We found no effect of treatment on nutrient digestibility. Increasing FR had no effect on Tmax during winter but tended to delay Tmax of plasma acetaminophen during summer. Regardless of season, increasing FF lowered Tmax of plasma acetaminophen. In conclusion, increasing FF accelerated abomasal emptying and might reduce heat load of preweaning dairy calves but improved growth only during winter. Increased MR allowance improved growth in both seasons but delayed abomasal emptying only under heat stress conditions.