The objective of this study was to determine effects of various forages and live yeast culture on intake, growth, nutrient digestibility, and ruminal fermentation of weaned dairy calves. Holstein calves (n = 45) were randomly assigned to 2 × 3 factorial treatments: live yeast culture or no yeast and alfalfa haylage (AH), corn silage (CS), or grass hay (GH). Calves were weaned at 6 wk of age, housed individually, and studied from 7 to 16 wk of age. Rations, consisting of an 18% crude protein texturized grower (yeast or no yeast) and assigned forage, were offered as separate components until 9 wk of age. After 9 wk, diets were offered as a total mixed ration (TMR). Concentrate intake was capped at 2.25 kg of dry matter (DM)/d, and forage was offered ad libitum. The TMR contained equal forage neutral detergent fiber (8 ± 0.5%) on a DM basis for each basal diet. Calves were fed TMR to limit concentrate intake, and additional forage was offered ad libitum after 8 h if the entire TMR allotment was consumed. Total fecal collection (12 calves) was conducted for 4 d at 11 and 15 wk of age. Feeds and feces were evaluated for DM, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, and starch to calculate digestibility. On the last day of fecal collection, rumen samples were collected to evaluate pH and volatile fatty acid (VFA) profile. Metabolizable energy and DM intake was least for calves consuming GH compared with other forages. Forage intake (% of DM intake) increased as calves aged (AH = 20 to 44.4%, CS = 24.5 to 37.6%, GH = 11.3 to 32.3% at 10 and 16 wk of age, respectively). Calves on CS had the greatest average daily gain and empty body weight gain, and calves on GH had the least. Calves on GH tended to have the lowest final body weight. There were no differences in structural growth. Digestibility of DM decreased with age. Fiber digestibility was least for calves on CS, and starch digestibility was least for calves on AH. Mean and minimum rumen pH increased with age. Forage offered changed VFA profile and there was an interaction between yeast and forage on VFA profile. These results indicated that recently weaned calves perform well on AH, CS, or GH and have minimal benefit from yeast supplementation. Feeding GH reduced weight gain, but all calves achieved a level of gain to meet growth goals for breeding and freshening. Furthermore, the ability to consume large portions of the ration as forage allows for more economical diets to be fed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology