Replacing dairy components from milk replacer (MR) with vegetable products has been previously associated with decreased protein and fat digestibility in milk-fed calves resulting in lower live weight gain. In this experiment, the major carbohydrate source in MR, lactose, was partly replaced with gelatinized corn starch (GCS) to determine the effect on protein and fat digestibility in milk-fed calves. In total, 16 male Holstein-Friesian calves received either MR with lactose as the carbohydrate source (control) or 18% GCS at the expense of lactose. In the adaptation period, calves were exposed to an increasing dose of GCS for 14 weeks. The indigestible marker cobalt ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid was incorporated into the MR for calculating apparent nutrient digestibility, whereas a pulse dose of chromium (Cr) chloride was fed with the last MR meal 4 h before slaughter as an indicator of passage rates. The calves were anesthetized and exsanguinated at 30 weeks of age. The small intestine was divided in three; small intestine 1 and 2 (SI1 and SI2, respectively) and the terminal ileum (last ~100 cm of small intestine) and samples of digesta were collected. Small intestinal digesta was analysed for α-amylase, lipase and trypsin activity. Digestibility of protein was determined for SI1, SI2, ileum and total tract, whereas digestibility of fat was determined for SI1, SI2 and total tract. Apparent protein digestibility in the small intestine did not differ between treatments but was higher in control calves at total tract level. Apparent crude fat digestibility tended to be increased in SI1 and SI2 for GCS calves, but no difference was found at total tract level. Activity of α-amylase in SI2 and lipase in both SI1 and SI2 was higher in GCS calves. Activity of trypsin tended to be higher in control calves and was higher in SI1 compared with SI2. A lower recovery of Cr in SI2 and a higher recovery of Cr in the large intestine suggest an increased rate of passage for GCS calves. Including 18% of GCS in a milk replacer at the expense of lactose increased passage rate and decreased apparent total tract protein digestibility. In the small intestine, protein digestion did not decrease when feeding GCS and fat digestion even tended to increase. Overall, effects on digestion might be levelled when partially replacing lactose with GCS, because starch digestion is lower than that of lactose but fat digestion may be slightly increased when feeding GCS.
- milk-fed calf