Impacts of reducing protein content in milk replacer on growth performance and health of young calves
In the present study, a drinking amount of 10 L of milk replacer (MR) was allowed to dairy calves in order to approach the natural drinking behavior. The question is: how much protein is required by calves in order to achieve an intended growth rate? For this reason, sixty-eight pre-weaned Holstein calves were divided into two groups and fed with 10 L/d of MR containing either 22% protein (MR22) or 19% protein (MR19) at an almost comparable energy intake. Effects on performance, metabolic status, and health were compared. Feed intake, growth performance, and health status were monitored during the pre-transition, transition, and postweaning phase (until 157 d of age). Total feed intake, and intake of MR, body weight (BW), and average daily gain (ADG) were not significantly different between MR22 and MR19 during the entire experimental period (p > 0.05). At d 42, calves in MR19 group showed greater serum levels of growth hormone (16.2 vs. 22.2 ng/mL; p = 0.02), insulin-like growth factor 1 (262 vs. 291 ng/mL; p = 0.03), and urea (2.86 vs. 3.04 mmol/L; p < 0.01). The results of the present study suggested that when high amounts of MR are provided, the protein content in MR can be reduced to 19% without any adverse effects on growth performance as well as on health status of dairy calves.