Low-protein solid feed improves the utilization of milk replacer for protein gain in veal calves

H. Berends, J.J.G.C. van den Borne, S.J.J. Alferink, C.G. van Reenen, E.A.M. Bokkers, W.J.J. Gerrits

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This study was designed to quantify the contribution of low-protein solid feed (SF) intake, in addition to milk replacer, to protein and energy retention in veal calves. Because of potential interactions between milk replacer and SF, occurring at either the level of digestion or postabsorption, this contribution might differ from that in calves fed either SF or milk replacer alone. Forty-eight Holstein Friesian male calves, 55 ± 0.3 kg of body weight (BW), were divided across 16 groups of 3 calves each. Groups were assigned randomly to 1 of 4 incremental levels of SF intake: 0, 9, 18, or 27 g of DM of SF/kg of BW0.75 per day. The SF mixture consisted of 25% chopped wheat straw, 25% chopped corn silage, and 50% nonpelleted concentrate (on a DM basis). Each group was housed in a respiration chamber for quantification of energy and N balance at each of 2 BW: at 108 ± 1.1 kg and at 164 ± 1.6 kg. The milk replacer supply was 37.3 g of DM/kg of BW0.75 per day at 108 kg of BW and 40.7 g of DM/kg of BW0.75 per day at 164 kg of BW, irrespective of SF intake. Within a chamber, each calf was housed in a metabolic cage to allow separate collection of feces and urine. Indirect calorimetry and N balance data were analyzed by using regression procedures with SF intake-related variables. Nitrogen excretion shifted from urine to feces with increasing SF intake. This indicates a higher gut entry rate of urea and may explain the improved N utilization through urea recycling, particularly at 164 kg of BW. At 108 kg of BW, the gross efficiency of N retention was 61% for calves without SF, and it increased with SF intake by 5.4%/g of DM of SF per day. At 164 kg of BW, this efficiency was 49% for calves without SF, and it increased by 9.9%/g of DM of SF per day. The incremental efficiency of energy retention, representing the increase in energy retained per kilojoule of extra digestible energy intake from SF, was 41% at 108 kg of BW and 54% at 164 kg of BW. Accordingly, the apparent total-tract digestibility of NDF increased with BW, from 46% at 108 kg of BW to 56% at 164 kg of BW. On average, 5.5% of gross energy from SF was released as CH4 in veal calves, which is similar to reported values in cattle fed only SF. In conclusion, the provision of low-protein SF resulted in improved N utilization for protein gain, particularly toward the end of the fattening period. In heavy calves, recycling of urea originating from amino acids in milk replacer potentially contributes substantially to the N retention of veal calves fed SF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6654-6664
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • heavy preruminant calves
  • kg live weight
  • rumen development
  • nitrogen-metabolism
  • methane production
  • fat deposition
  • energy
  • level
  • efficiency
  • growth

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