Soybean oil supplementation and starter protein content: Effects on growth performance, digestibility, ruminal fermentation, and urinary purine derivatives of Holstein dairy calves

S. Yousefinejad, F. Fattahnia, M. Kazemi-Bonchenari, H. Khanaki, J. K. Drackley, M. H. Ghaffari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated the effects of feeding dairy calves starter diets containing 19% or 22% crude protein (CP) content on a dry matter basis and either supplemented or not with soybean oil (SBO, 0 vs. 3%, dry matter basis) on growth performance, digestibility, urinary nitrogen, and purine derivatives (PD) excretion. A total of 48 female Holstein dairy calves (mean 39.8 kg of body weight) were randomly distributed to experimental diets in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments. The 4 dietary treatments were (1) starter diet without SBO supplement and 19% CP (NSBO-19CP), (2) starter diet without SBO supplement and 22% CP (NSBO-22CP), (3) starter diet with 3% SBO and 19% CP (SBO-19CP), and (4) starter diet with 3% SBO and 22% CP (SBO-22CP). Milk feeding value was similarly based on a constant protocol across experimental treatments and calves had ad libitum access to water and starter diets throughout the study. All calves were weaned on d 63 of age and remained in the study until d 83 of age. Calves supplemented with SBO had lower starter feed intake and average daily gain (ADG) and lower feed efficiency (FE) but had a higher fecal score indicating a higher likelihood of diarrhea occurrence compared with unsupplemented calves. Wither heights, digestibilities of organic matter, CP, and neutral detergent fiber were decreased, and ruminal volatile fatty acids tended to be reduced, and the molar proportion of ruminal butyrate (preweaning) and acetate (postweaning) reduced by supplemental SBO. The urinary allantoin and total PD excretion were reduced; however, urinary nitrogen excretion was increased when calves were supplemented with SBO. The CP amount did not affect starter feed intake, FE, or diarrhea occurrence rate, whereas the 22CP diets increased neutral detergent fiber digestibility, improved ADG (tendency), and increased allantoin and urinary PD excretion compared with the 19CP diets. The starter feed intake, ADG, FE, diarrhea occurrence rate, nutrient digestibility, and ruminal fermentation were not affected by the interaction between starter SBO and CP level; however, hip height and total PD in calves that received the SBO-22CP diets were higher than those fed the SBO-19CP diets. In conclusion, based on our experimental conditions, supplemental SBO could not be recommended for dairy calves. Furthermore, our findings indicate that SBO has negative effects on performance more attributed to reducing starter intake, digestibility, and ruminal volatile fatty acid concentration rather than because of a limitation of starter metabolizable protein supply and intestinal amino acid availability. Therefore, our results indicate that feeding the higher starter CP content is not a viable strategy to compensate for the negative effects of SBO supplementation on the growth performance of dairy calves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1630-1644
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • dairy calves
  • fiber digestibility
  • metabolizable protein
  • microbial protein synthesis
  • oil supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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