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Corn processing increases starch digestibility but does not improve performance or other digestibility estimates in weaned dairy calves.

T. S. Dennis

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06-22-2020

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Abstract:

M62
Corn processing increases starch digestibility but does not improve performance or other digestibility estimates in weaned dairy calves.
T. S. Dennis*, F. X. Suarez-Mena, K. M. Aragona, T. M. Hill, J. D. Quigley. Nurture Research Center, Provimi, Cargill Animal Nutrition Brookville, OH.

Previous studies in our group have observed small reductions in starch digestibility (2 to 5% units) about 1 to 4 wk after weaning when feeding whole corn (WC) vs. steam-flaked corn or a high starch complete pellet (Quigley et al., 2019; van Niekerk et al., 2020). However, we did not see overall improvements in growth as a result of increased starch digestibility which may be due to reductions in intake often seen with greater starch availability. Therefore, our objective was to evaluate performance and diet digestibility of calves fed WC from 8 to 16 wk of age compared with calves switched to processed corn at 12 wk of age. Holstein steers (n = 48) initially 58 to 60 d of age and 77.4 � 7.6 kg BW were housed in groups (4 steers/pen) with 2 treatments randomly assigned to pens (6 pens/treatment). Treatments were a textured grower feed with WC fed for 8 wk (WCT) or WCT fed for 4 wk then switched to cracked corn for the remaining 4 wk (CCT). Grower formulas were 42% corn, 30% protein supplement, 25% whole oats, and 3% molasses (as-fed basis) with 20% CP and 43% starch (DM basis). Feeds were blended with chopped grass hay in a 95:5 ratio (as-fed basis) and offered ab libitum. Calf BW, hip widths, and BCS were recorded at 8, 12, and 16 wk of age and hip height was recorded at 8 and 16 wk of age. Digestibility estimates were evaluated at 9, 13, and 15 wk of age (before, 1 wk after, and 3 wk after diet change, respectively) using acid insoluble ash as a marker. Data were analyzed as a completely randomized design with repeated measures. Pen was the experimental unit. No differences were observed for ADG, DM intake, feed efficiency, or frame growth overall or by 4 wk period. Digestibility estimates for fat were lower at wk 13 (72.8 vs. 59.6%; P = 0.024) and estimates for starch tended to be greater at wk 15 (89.7 vs. 92.8%; P = 0.052) for CCT. No other digestibility estimates differed. In summary, increased corn processing did not improve performance in weaned calves up to 16 wk of age despite improvements in starch digestibility 3 wk after a diet change.

Keywords: weaned calf, corn processing, digestibility.