Submitted to: International Society of Applied Ethology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/1/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: In the US, dairy calves are removed from the dam within hours of birth and placed in new environments. Calves may become ill and lose weight indicating that calf management is a serious animal welfare and production issue. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effects of 2 dietary supplements on health, growth, immune function and behavior and to determine the efficacy of these supplements to replace antibiotics in milk replacer. Forty-eight Holsteins dairy calves were removed from dam within 4-12 hours after birth, fed pooled colostrum for three days, and then placed on 1 of 4 supplements added to calf milk replacer; Control, beta-glucan, Vitamin C, and beta-glucan plus Vitamin C. Calves were fed 10% of their body weight per day in 2 equal feedings. Vitamin C was given at 250mg per feeding and beta-glucan product was added at 2.5% of dry milk replacer. Animals were video taped continuously for 6 weeks. Weekly body weight, body temperature, and blood samples were taken for 6 weeks. Fecal scores were recorded daily. Weekly hematology measures included hematocrit and fibrinogen. Hematocrit showed a main effect of beta-glucan. Interactions for Vitamin C and beta-glucan were significant (P<0.01) for body weight change, percent hematocrit, fecal scores, and fibrinogen. Preliminary analysis of behavior data (n=24) suggests that animal receiving supplements are 8% more active than the controls. Calves given beta-glucan or beta- glucan and Vitamin C spend more time with their head in the bucket indicating more interest in feeding (P<0.05). This study shows that supplemental Vitamin C and beta-glucan synergistically improve welfare, weight gain and health status of dairy calves.