Ultrasonography to investigate the effect of supplementing whole milk with complex carbohydrates and specific amino acids on curd retention in the abomasum of dairy calves

Ultrasonography to investigate the effect of supplementing whole milk with complex carbohydrates and specific amino acids on curd retention in the abomasum of dairy calves
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIM: To determine whether the retention time of curd in the abomasum of calves was influenced by supplementing milk with a plant-derived carbohydrate and amino acid supplement, evaluated non-invasively using ultrasonography.

METHODS: Female dairy calves aged between 2–6 days of age were sourced from a commercial farm in March 2013. All calves were fed whole milk until weaning (4 L per day); 21 calves were supplemented with a probiotic until 18 days of age, and thereafter with a plant-derived complex carbohydrate and amino acid supplement until weaning, and 22 calves were just fed whole milk. Treatment groups were balanced for age, weight and breed. At 9–14, 24–29 and 52–57 days of age, the abomasum of each calf was examined using ultrasonography immediately before and after feeding, 1 and 2 hours after feeding, and then at 30 minute intervals until curd was no longer visible in the abomasum. Abomasal volume and curd size were recorded to assess retention time of curd in the abomasum.

RESULTS: At 9–14 days of age, mean retention time of curd in the abomasum was similar (4.6 hours) in both groups. At 24–29 days of age, when the supplemented calves had been receiving the supplement for approximately 10 days, mean curd retention time was longer by 1.4 (SE 0.28) hours in supplemented compared with unsupplemented calves (p<0.001). At 52–57 days of age, mean retention time was longer by 0.7 (SE 0.34) hours compared to unsupplemented calves (p=0.05).

CONCLUSION: Using ultrasonography, changes in abomasal content could be followed non-invasively over time and it was demonstrated that the plant-derived complex carbohydrate supplement increased the curd retention time in the abomasum. We speculate that the increased retention time enables an increased availability of nutrients following a more complete digestion of milk, thereby improving animal performance.


KEY WORDS: Ultrasonography, curd, retention time, milk, carbohydrate, amino acid diet supplement, dairy calves

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