Effects of starter protein content and alkali processing of wheat straw on growth, ruminal fermentation, and behavior in Holstein calves

A. Mirzakhani, G. R. Ghorbani, A. Sadeghi-Sefidmazgi, H. Rafiee, J. K. Drackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of crude protein (CP) content of starter feed and wheat straw (WS) processing on growth performance, digestibility, ruminal fermentation, and behavior of Holstein calves. Sixty calves (28 male and 32 female) were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatments in a randomized complete block design. Treatments in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement were (1) lower-CP ground starter feed mixed with alkali-processed WS (LP-PWS), (2) lower-CP ground starter feed mixed with unprocessed WS (LP-WS), (3) higher-CP ground starter feed mixed with alkali-processed WS (HP-PWS), and (4) higher-CP ground starter feed mixed with unprocessed WS (HP-WS). Wheat straw was fed at 4.75% of dry matter (DM), and low-protein (LP) and high-protein (HP) starter feed contained 19.5 and 23.5% CP, respectively. The calves were weaned on d 60 and remained in the study until d 75. During the experiment, the calves received 4.2 kg of whole milk per day and had free access to fresh water and starter feed. The interaction between WS processing and protein content of starter tended to be significant for starter feed intake, average daily gain (ADG), and body weight (BW); calves fed HP-PWS tended to have greater ADG and final BW than other treatments. The results showed that feeding HP ground starter feed increased ADG and feed efficiency compared with LP groups during the preweaning and the overall periods. Moreover, weaning and final BW were higher in HP-fed calves than in LP-fed calves. Apparent digestibilities of acid detergent fiber (ADF), starch, and CP were greater in calves fed HP than in calves fed LP starter feed. The HP ground starter feed increased rumen propionate and ammonia concentrations. Wheat straw processing had no effect on intake and growth of calves but increased DM, ADF, and neutral detergent fiber digestibilities and decreased ruminal pH. Using processed wheat straw (PWS) mixed with starter feed tended to decrease rumination time and ruminal acetate concentration in calves. Final body barrel and withers height tended to be greater in calves fed PWS. Overall, the results indicated that HP content of ground starter feed (23.5%) could be recommended for Holstein calves. Furthermore, PWS inclusion in the ground starter diet increased fiber digestibility but had no effect on calf performance. Moreover, calves fed HP-PWS had greater ADG and final BW than other treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3098-3108
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Volume104
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • calf nutrition
  • forage quality
  • weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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