Effects of a Grain Source (Corn Versus Barley) and Starter Protein Content on Performance, Ruminal Fermentation, and Blood Metabolites in Holstein Dairy Calves
Department of Animal Science, Faculty Agriculture and Natural Resources, Arak University, Arak 38156-8-8349, Iran
Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater 74078, OK, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1722; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101722
Received: 15 August 2020 / Revised: 15 September 2020 / Accepted: 17 September 2020 / Published: 23 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Protein and Amino Acid Nutrition for Improving Animals’ Growth and Health)
Dairy calf producers are concerned about feeding barley grain to dairy calves due to its rapid starch fermentation rate in the rumen compared to corn grain. Therefore, corn grain is still the main energy source in starter diets in dairy calves. However, some studies on bull and dairy calves indicated that there are some potentials for including barley grain in their diets with positively influencing the performance and feed efficiency. Optimum protein content in starter diet is an important factor influencing the animal growth response to grain source. This may be due to adequate nitrogen availability rate when starch is rapidly degraded in the rumen. Therefore, we hypothesized that dairy calves may produce different growth response to grain source with various ruminal starch degradation rate (high degradation rate in barley grain vs. low degradation rate in corn grain) when fed with starters with different protein content. Here we show that the average daily gain, feed efficiency, and ruminal fermentation profile were improved in dairy calves fed with barley grain. Furthermore, when dairy calves receive high protein content in their starter diet, barley grain improves growth performance in comparison with corn grain. Our study suggests that barley grain can be included in dairy calf starter diet when a starter with higher protein content is provided.
The effects of a grain source (corn grain (CG) vs. barley grain (BG)) and starter protein content (19% vs. 22% CP, dry matter basis) on growth performance, digestibility, ruminal fermentation, and blood metabolites were evaluated in Holstein dairy calves. Forty 3-day-old female calves with a starting body weight of 39.3 kg were subjected to four treatments in a completely randomized design with two by two factorial arrangements. Treatments were: (1) CG + 19% CP (CG-19CP); (2) CG + 22% CP (CG-22CP); (3) BG + 19% CP (BG-19CP); and (4) BG + 22% CP (BG-22CP). All calves were weaned at 59 days of age and remained in the study until 73 days of age. Starter and total DM intake were not affected by grain source and dietary protein content (p > 0.05). The average daily gain and feed efficiency were improved, and ruminal total short-chain fatty acid, propionate, and butyrate concentrations were increased in BG calves compared to CG calves (p < 0.05). The ruminal concentrations of ammonia nitrogen (d 71; p = 0.02) and acetate (d 35; p = 0.02) were increased in CG fed calves compared to BG. The greatest wither height (p = 0.03) and blood insulin concentration (p = 0.03) were seen in BG-22CP treatment. In conclusion, BG has marginal benefit in the height of calves when fed with diet containing 22% CP which may be recommendable in replacement heifer rearing programs.