Effect of suckling cow's milk or milk replacer on abomasal luminal pH in dairy calves

Peter D. Constable, Ahmed F. Ahmed, Nabil A. Misk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abomasal ulceration occurs commonly in suckling calves, and the cause for the high prevalence of abomasal ulceration is unknown. We hypothesized that diet may play a role in the etiopathogenesis of abomasal ulceration. Six male dairy calves with an abomasal body cannula suckled fresh Holstein cow's milk, all milk-protein milk replacer, or combined milk- and soy-protein milk replacer twice daily at 12% of body weight/d. Abomasal luminal pH was measured every second for 24 hours by using a miniature glass pH electrode. Mean 24-hour abomasal luminal pH for all milk-protein milk replacer (3.22) and combined milk- and soy-protein milk replacer (3.27) were similar but significantly (P < .05) higher than that for cow's milk (2.77; standard error = 0.08). Both milk-replacer formulations failed to clot after the addition of chymosin, whereas cow's milk clotted within 2 minutes. The in vitro titration curve of cow's milk and all milk-protein milk replacer were similar, but different to that of combined milk- and soy-protein milk replacer. The osmolalities of all milk-protein milk replacer (375 mOsm/kg) and combined milk- and soy-protein milk replacer (410 mOsm/kg) were greater than that of cow's milk (278 mOsm/kg). The slightly lower mean abomasal luminal pH in calves suckling cow's milk, compared to milk replacer, was probably due to clotting of cow's milk, with extrusion of low pH whey, and a slower rate of abomasal emptying caused by the hyperosmolality of milk replacer. Examination of our results suggests that suckling cow's milk may increase the prevalence of abomasal ulceration by decreasing mean luminal pH, although this remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of veterinary internal medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Abomasal ulcer
  • Buffering characteristics
  • Clotting
  • Coagulation
  • Osmolality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of suckling cow's milk or milk replacer on abomasal luminal pH in dairy calves'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this