Effects of Supplementing Concentrates Differing in Carbohydrate Composition in Veal Calf Diets: I. Animal Performance and Rumen Fermentation Characteristics

B.J. Suárez, C.G. van Reenen, G. Beldman, J. van Delen, J. Dijkstra, W.J.J. Gerrits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this experiment was to examine the effects of concentrates in feed, differing in carbohydrate source, on the growth performance and rumen fermentation characteristics of veal calves. For this purpose, 160 Holstein Friesian x Dutch Friesian crossbred male calves were used in a complete randomized block design with a 5 x 2 factorial arrangement. Dietary treatments consisted of 1) milk replacer control, 2) pectin-based concentrate, 3) neutral detergent fiber-based concentrate, 4) starch-based concentrate, and 5) mixed concentrate (equal amounts of concentrates of treatments 2, 3, and 4). Concentrate diets were provided as pellets in addition to a commercial milk replacer. Calves were euthanized either at the end of 8 or 12 wk of age. The overall dry matter intake of the concentrate diets varied between 0.37 and 0.52 kg/d. Among the concentrate diets, the dry matter intake was lower in the starch diet (0.37 kg/d of dry matter) and differed between the NDF and pectin diets. The average daily gain for all the dietary treatments varied between 0.70 and 0.78 kg/d. The mixed- and NDF-fed calves had an increased average daily gain (0.78 and 0.77 kg/d, respectively) compared with the starch- and pectin-fed calves (0.70 and 0.71 kg/d, respectively). Rumen fermentation in the calves fed concentrates was characterized by a low pH (4.9 to 5.2), volatile fatty acid concentrations between 100 and 121 mmol/L, and high concentrations of reducing sugars (33 to 66 g/kg of dry matter). The volatile fatty acid concentrations of calves fed concentrates were higher than those of the control calves. All concentrate treatments showed a low acetate-to-propionate ratio in rumen fluid (between 1.3 and 1.9). Among the concentrates, the NDF diet had the highest (55.5%) and starch the lowest (45.5%) molar proportions of acetate. Calves fed the mixed, pectin, and starch diets had significantly higher molar proportions of butyrate (13.1 to 15.8%) than the NDF- and control-fed groups (9.9 and 9.6%, respectively). Calves fed the control diet had a higher lactate concentration (21 mmol/L) than the concentrate-fed calves (between 5 and 11 mmol/L). With the exception of the NDF diet, polysaccharide-degrading enzyme activities in the rumen contents generally showed an adaptation of the microorganisms to the carbohydrate source in the diet. The mixed diet exhibited the least variation in rumen polysaccharide-degrading enzyme activities among the enzymes systems tested. Results indicated that the carbohydrate source can influence intake, growth rate, and rumen fermentation in young veal calves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4365-4375
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • volatile fatty-acids
  • dairy calves
  • ruminal bacterium
  • sodium-bicarbonate
  • fiber degradation
  • blood metabolites
  • enzyme-activity
  • cattle
  • growth
  • glucose


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of Supplementing Concentrates Differing in Carbohydrate Composition in Veal Calf Diets: I. Animal Performance and Rumen Fermentation Characteristics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this