Nutrient Impacts on Rumen Growth and Development


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Virginia Tech


Our collective knowledge of calf nutrition has evolved over the past 100+ years, but there are still areas of improvement that merit further scientific inquiry. The work described herein explored different aspects of calf nutrition with a central focus on rumen growth and development. The first study performed used 8 Holstein bull calves to determine if calf starters differing in starch and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) content would affect calf growth, intake, rumen metabolites, blood metabolites, and gross rumen measurements when fed along with milk replacer (MR). The experiment used completely pelleted calf starters consisting of ground and pelleted barley, wheat, and corn grains. Besides the high-starch starter resulting in lower rumen pH, the hypothesis that completely pelleted calf starter diets differing in NDF and starch level would alter intake, growth, rumen metabolism, and rumen measurements was not supported. However, calves fed the high-NDF starter were $5.71 less expensive per calf to raise. Findings suggest a form of feed effect in today's calf starter diets that might be of physiological and economic importance. The second study tested custom-built rumen infusion, sampling, and evacuation devices. The main objectives were to build and confirm the successful use of the devices in one Holstein bull calf at 62 days of age, which determined a liquid passage rate out of the rumen at 40.2% of ruminal fluid/h. The third and final study examined the effects of form of diet (MR only, n = 5; MR and starter, n = 6) on rumen growth and development. More specifically, isocaloric and isonitrogenous diets were fed to neonatal and ruminally cannulated Holstein calves for 6 week. The hypothesis of MR and starter calves having altered gross rumen measurements, epithelial stem and progenitor cell number, and epithelial proliferation status was supported, but hypothesized changes in volatile fatty acid (VFA) transporter abundance and VFA absorption rate were not supported. These results indicate that form of diet, even one that promotes rumen growth, does not equate to enhanced ability to absorb VFA, but there is an effect on rumen stem and progenitor cells as well as epithelial proliferation.



calf nutrition, rumen growth and development