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The provision of solid feeds to veal calves: II. Behavior, physiology, and abomasal damage



The provision of solid feeds to veal calves: II. Behavior, physiology, and abomasal damage



Journal of Animal Science 80(2): 367-375



The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of the addition of two roughage sources (wheat straw and beet pulp) to the milk replacer diet of veal calves, in order to reduce stress and improve animal welfare. We allocated 138 Polish Friesian male calves to three different feeding plans: a milk replacer diet (Control), 250 g/d of wheat straw in addition to the milk replacer, or 250 g/d of dried beet pulp in addition to the milk replacer. Within each feeding treatment, 16 calves were individually housed and 30 were kept in group pens (five calves/pen). Several behavioral, physiological, and health welfare indicators were monitored throughout the fattening period, which lasted for 160 d. Abnormal oral behavior around the meals was higher in Control calves (P < 0.01), while its lowest level was observed in straw-fed calves. At the beginning of the trial, chewing was higher in calves receiving solid feeds (P < 0.001), but the difference from the Control gradually decreased and disappeared at wk 13 for calves fed beet pulp and at wk 17 for those fed wheat straw. At the end of the fattening period, no differences among treatments were found in the frequency of chewing. Regardless of the diet, self-grooming decreased with age and no relationship was observed between this behavior and the presence of rumen hairballs. Cross-sucking was performed with low frequencies (from 4.70% at wk 2 to 1.05% at wk 23 around the meals, and even lower far from the meals) and was not affected by the provision of roughage. The time in contact with the bucket during the whole day was higher in Controls, whereas calves fed wheat straw maintained a lower level of this activity until the end of the trial (P < 0.01). The calves fed wheat straw spent more time in contact with the feed trough (P < 0.001) than those fed beet pulp and Control calves. No differences were found in cortisol curves due to the feeding treatment. In calves fed beet pulp, most hematological measures statistically differed from the other treatments, possibly in response to the higher iron intake and(or) to the higher hemoconcentration, probably due to the administration of beet pulp as dried feed. The incidence of abomasal ulcers and erosions was increased by the provision of the solid feeds, particularly by a structured fiber source such as straw. A roughage source able to satisfy calves' behavioral needs and to improve digestive processes without damaging the digestive apparatus still has to be identified. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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Accession: 010010699

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PMID: 11881926


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