Effects of adding extra molasses to a texturized calf starter on rumen development, growth characteristics, and blood parameters in neonatal dairy calves

K. E. Lesmeister, A. J. Heinrichs

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A texturized calf starter containing 5 (control) or 12% molasses [on a dry matter (DM) basis] was fed to dairy calves to determine effects on intake, growth, blood parameters, and rumen development. Forty-six Holstein calves (26 male and 20 female) were started at 2 ± 1 d of age and studied for 42 d. Starter DM intake was measured and fecal scoring was conducted daily. Growth and blood parameter measurements were conducted weekly. A subset of 6 male calves (3 per treatment) was euthanized at 4 wk of age, and rumen tissue sampled for rumen epithelial growth measurements. Starter sugar content was significantly increased in the starter containing extra molasses. Postweaning and overall starter DM intake, overall total DM intake, daily heart girth change, and final heart girth were significantly decreased, whereas overall average daily gain tended to decrease when calves received starter containing 12% molasses. However, blood volatile fatty acid concentrations were significantly increased when calves received a starter containing 12% molasses. No significant differences were observed between calves receiving starters containing 5 or 12% molasses for all other variables. The data indicates that adding extra molasses to a texturized calf starter decreases intake and structural growth, possibly causing decreased weight gain, but increases blood volatile fatty acid concentrations and slightly increases ruminal development. However, feed handling and physical prehension problems in addition to the negative influences on calf growth and intake do not support increasing starter molasses content to 12% of the supplement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-418
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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