Residual feed intake is related to metabolic and inflammatory response during the preweaning period in Italian Simmental calves

Giulia Ferronato, Luca Cattaneo, Annalisa Amato, Andrea Minuti, Juan J. Loor, Erminio Trevisi, Carmelo Cavallo, George Attard, Ahmed A. Elolimy, Luigi Liotta, Vincenzo Lopreiato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Residual Feed Intake (RFI) is defined as the difference between measured and predicted intake. Understanding its biological regulators could benefit farm profit margins. The most-efficient animals (M-Eff) have observed intake smaller than predicted resulting in negative RFI, whereas the least-efficient (L-Eff) animals have positive RFI. Hence, this observational study aimed at retrospectively comparing the blood immunometabolic profile in calves with divergent RFI during the preweaning period. Twenty-two Italian Simmental calves were monitored from birth through 60 d of age. Calves received 3 L of colostrum from their respective dams. From 2 to 53 d of age, calves were fed a milk replacer twice daily, whereas from 54 to 60 d (i.e., weaning) calves were stepped down to only one meal in the morning. Calves had ad libitum access to concentrate and intakes were recorded daily. The measurement of BW and blood samples were performed at 0, 1, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 45, 54, and 60 d of age. Calves were ranked and categorized as M-Eff or L-Eff according to the median RFI value. Median RFI was −0.06 and 0.04 kg of DMI/d for M-Eff and L-Eff, respectively. No evidence for group differences was noted for colostrum and plasma IgG concentrations. Although growth rate was not different, as expected, (0.67 kg/d [95% CI = 0.57–0.76] for both L-Eff and M-Eff) throughout the entire preweaning period (0–60 d), starter intake was greater in L-Eff compared with M-Eff calves (+36%). Overall, M-Eff calves had a greater gain-to-feed ratio compared with L-Eff calves (+16%). Plasma ceruloplasmin, myeloperoxidase, and reactive oxygen metabolites concentrations were greater in L-Eff compared with M-Eff calves. Compared with L-Eff, M-Eff calves had an overall greater plasma concentration of globulin, and γ-glutamyl transferase (indicating a better colostrum uptake) and Zn at 1 d. Retinol and urea were overall greater in L-Eff. The improved efficiency in nutrient utilization observed in M-Eff was paired with a lower grade of oxidative stress and systemic inflammation. L-Eff may have had greater energy expenditure to support the activation of the immune system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1685-1693
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Simmental calves
  • growth performance
  • metabolic profile
  • residual feed intake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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