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Grain source and chromium supplementation: effects on feed intake, meal and rumination patterns, and growth performance in Holstein dairy calves

  • S. Kargar (a1), Z. Habibi (a2) and S. Karimi-Dehkordi (a2)

Carbohydrate-rich diets may increase urinary excretion of chromium (Cr) and increase its requirements. This study was conducted to investigate the effect of grain type (barley v. corn) and Cr supplementation on feed intake, feeding behavior and weight gain in dairy calves. Forty-eight neonatal Holstein female calves were assigned randomly to four experimental diets in a 2×2 factorial arrangement. Experimental diets were either barley-based diet (BBD) or corn-based diet (CBD) supplemented with (+Cr) or without (−Cr) Cr as Cr-methionine (0.05 mg/kg of BW0.75). Chromium was provided in milk (from days 3 to 73 of life) during the pre-weaning period and then in pre-warmed water (from day 74 until day 94 of life) after weaning. Meal length tended to increase in calves fed the BBD v. CBD during the pre-weaning period. During the post-weaning period, meal size, inter-meal interval, and eating rate increased concurrently but meal frequency and eating time decreased in the BBD v. CBD. During the pre-weaning period, feed efficiency, BW at weaning, and heart girth increased and non-nutritive oral behaviors tended to decrease with Cr supplementation. Due to increased meal frequency, the starter feed intake but not eating time increased by Cr supplementation during the post-weaning period. Supplementing Cr increased starter feed intake, final BW, average daily gain and heart girth during the overall period. Rumination time increased in BBD+Cr calves due to increases in the frequency and duration of rumination, or decreased rumination bout interval. Overall, the type of grain had no effect on feed intake and growth performance; however, Cr supplementation decreased non-nutritive oral behaviors and increased starter feed intake via increasing the meal frequency and thereby improved growth performance.

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