Growth and body composition of dairy calves fed milk replacers containing different amounts of protein at two feeding rates

K. S. Bartlett, F. K. McKeith, M. J. VandeHaar, G. E. Dahl, J. K. Drackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has demonstrated that increasing the CP concentration from 16 to 26% in milk replacers fed to male preruminant dairy calves at 1.5% of BW (DM basis) daily resulted in increased ADG, G:F, and deposition of lean tissue. However, the effects of dietary CP would be expected to vary depending on ME intake. Here, male Holstein calves <1 wk old were used to determine the effects of feeding rate and CP concentration of isocaloric, whey protein-based milk replacers on growth and body composition. After a 2-wk standardization period, calves were assigned randomly to an initial baseline group or to treatments in a 2 × 4 factorial arrangement of feeding rate (1.25 or 1.75% of BW daily, DM basis) and milk replacer CP concentration (14, 18, 22, or 26% of DM). No starter was offered, but calves had free access to water. After a 5-wk feeding period, calves were slaughtered and body composition was determined. Increasing the feeding rate increased (P < 0.05) ADG, G:F, empty-body gains of chemical components and energy, the percentage of fat in empty BW gain and in the final empty body, and concentrations of IGF-I and insulin in plasma. Increasing the feeding rate decreased (P < 0.01) percentages of water and protein in the empty body and decreased urea N in plasma. Increasing dietary CP concentration linearly increased (P < 0.05) ADG, body length, heart girth, and gains of water and protein but linearly decreased (P < 0.05) fat gain. As dietary CP increased, fat content in empty body gain decreased, and water and protein increased. Increasing CP concentration increased (quadratic, P < 0.02) G:F, with greatest efficiencies for calves fed 22% CP. Gross energetic efficiency (retained energy:intake energy) was greater (P < 0.05) for calves fed at 1.75% of BW daily. Efficiency of dietary protein use for protein gain was greater for calves fed at 1.75% of BW daily but was not affected by dietary CP. The ratio of protein gain to apparently digestible protein intake above maintenance decreased as dietary CP increased. Interactions (P < 0.05) of feeding rate and CP concentration for gains of water and protein indicated that when dietary CP was 26% the ME supply limited protein use by calves fed at 1.25% of BW daily. Body composition of preruminant calves can be markedly altered by manipulating the protein to energy ratio in milk replacers. These dietary effects on body composition and growth are not predicted by current NRC standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1454-1467
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Body composition
  • Calf
  • Diet
  • Energy
  • Protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Growth and body composition of dairy calves fed milk replacers containing different amounts of protein at two feeding rates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this