Fat composition of milk replacer influences postprandial and oxidative metabolisms in dairy calves fed twice daily

Wilms, J.N.; Kleinveld, N.; Ghaffari, M.H.; Sauerwein, H.; Steele, M.A.; Martín-Tereso, J.; Leal, L.N.


Milk replacers (MR) for calves contain alternative fat sources as substitute for milk fat. This substitution leads to differences in fat properties, such as the fatty acid profile and the triglyceride structure. This study evaluated how fat composition in MR affects gastrointestinal health, blood redox parameters, and postprandial metabolism in calves fed twice daily. Forty-five individually housed male Holstein-Friesian calves (2.3 ± 0.85 d of age) were assigned to 1 of 15 blocks based on the age and the day of arrival. Within each block, calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental diets and received their respective diet from arrival until 35 d after arrival. The 3 experimental diets (n = 15 per treatment group) consisted of an MR with a blend of vegetable fats containing rapeseed and coconut (VG), an MR with only animal fats from lard and dairy cream (AN), and an MR containing a mixture of animal and vegetable fats including lard and coconut (MX). The fatty acid profile of each MR was formulated to resemble that of bovine milk fat while using only 2 fat sources. All MR were isoenergetic, with 30% fat (% DM), 24% crude protein, and 36% lactose. Chopped straw and water were available ad libitum from arrival onward but no starter feed was provided. Daily milk allowances were 6.0 L from d 1 to 5, 7.0 L from d 6 to 9, and 8.0 L from d 10 to 35, divided into 2 equal meals and prepared at 135 g/L (13.5% solids). Fecal appearance was scored daily; calves were weighed and blood was drawn on arrival and weekly thereafter. Urine and feces were collected over a 24-h period at wk 3 and 5 to determine apparent total-tract digestibility and assess gastrointestinal permeability using indigestible markers. Postprandial metabolism was evaluated at wk 4 by sequential blood sampling over 7.5 h, and the abomasal emptying rate was determined by acetaminophen appearance in blood. Fat composition in MR did not affect growth, MR intake, gastrointestinal permeability, nor nutrient digestibility. The percentage of calves with abnormal fecal scores was lower at wk 2 after arrival in calves fed VG than MX, whereas AN did not differ from the other treatments. Calves fed AN and MX had higher thiobarbituric acid reactive substances measured in serum than VG, whereas plasma ferric-reducing ability was greater in calves fed MX than VG. Postprandial acetaminophen concentrations did not differ across treatment groups, but the area under the curve was smaller in calves fed VG than in the other 2 treatments, which is indicative of a slower abomasal emptying. Postprandial serum triglyceride concentration was greater in calves fed AN than VG, whereas MX did not differ from the other treatments. Based on these outcomes, all 3 fat blends can be considered suitable for inclusion in MR for calves.