Effect of Physical Form of Starter Feed on Intake, Growth Rate, Behavior and Health Status of Female Dairy Calves

1 Trakia University, Agricultural faculty, BG - 6000 Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
3 Trakia University, Faculty of veterinary medicine, BG - 6000 Stara Zagora, Bulgaria


YAVUZ, E., N. A. TODOROV, G. GANCHEV and K. NEDELKOV, 2015. Effect of physical form of starter feed on intake, growth rate, behavior and health status of female dairy calves. Bulg. J. Agric. Sci., 21: 893–900

The aim of the experiment was to compare the effect of physical form of starter feed on growth and development of dairy calves until 70 days of age. Forty female Black and White calves at one day of age and average live weight (LW) of 39.2 kg are divided in four equal groups with respect to date of birth and LW. Calves were kept in individual hutches with straw bedding. Treatments were four physical forms of starter feed: a) Whole maize grain plus pelleted protein concentrate (WMP); b) Pelleted starter feed (PSF); c) Starter in meal form with coarsely grounded maize (MSF); and d) 95% MSF + 5% Nutrilait (contains 35% whey powder) (MSN). The ingredient and nutrient composition of the four starter feeds were similar, except for replacing 5% of dry distiller’s grain with soluble with Nutrilait in the starter feed for the fourth group. The calves from the 4 groups received per feeding 2 L colostrum the first two days, gradually increasing the quantity of milk until 6 days of age, and 4 L per feeding unmarketable pasteurized whole milk afterwards until 56 days of age. First three days liquid feed was provided three times a day, from 4 to 35 days of age twice, and from 36 to 56 days of age once per day. From 35 days of age all calves were provided alfalfa hay ad libitum. Intake of milk, starter feed, and hay was recorded every day. Live weight and frame size (withers heights and heart girth) were measured at birth, on 35, 56 and 70 days of age. Health status, fecal score, beginning of eating dry feed and rumination, time spent eating and ruminating and behavior of calves were observed and recorded. There were no significant differences in the intake of different starters, both pre- and post-weaning. Live weight gain, frame size gain and feed efficiency of calves receiving different starters feed were practically similar. There were no differences in health status and fecal scoring of calves from the four groups. Results showed that starter with whole maize grain and pelleted starter allowed similar intake, performance and health status to those of calves fed starters with coarsely ground maize. Inclusion of Nutrilait (whey) into the starter didn’t affect the intake of starter and average daily gain of calves. There was a tendency for earlier initiation of rumination in calves receiving whole maize grain or pelleted starter, than in calves fed starters in meal form. Eating time was significantly longer, and there was a tendency for increasing rumination time, when calves received whole maize grain, compared to other starters. Starter of whole maize and pelleted supplement (protein, mineral and vitamin), and starter in meal form were cheaper than pelleted starter and starter with dry whey supplementation for improving palatability. In conclusion, the starter with equal ingredient and nutrient composition in coarsely ground or pelleted form, and starter of whole maize plus pelleted protein concentrate ensured equal gain, feed efficiency and health of calves. Chewing of feed was longer when whole maize was offered to calves.

Key words: calves, physical form of feed, whole grain, pellet, ground, intake, growth, size of body, health, fecal score
Abbreviations: CP – crude protein; DDGS dry distillers grain with solubles; DM – dry mater; LW – live weight; FUG – feed units for growth; MSF – meal starter feed; MSN – meal starter with Nutrilait (whey); PSF – pelleted starter feed; WMP – whole maize grain plus pelleted protein concentrate

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