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Drinking water intake of newborn dairy calves and its effects on feed intake, growth performance, health status, and nutrient digestibility.

J Dairy Sci; 2018 Nov 08.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30415859
Although it is recommended to offer free drinking water (called drinking water hereafter) immediately after birth, producers wait, on average, 17 d to first offer drinking water to newborn dairy calves. The objective of this study was to examine water and feed intake, growth performance, health status, and nutrient digestibility of Holstein heifer calves offered drinking water from birth (W0) as compared with those offered it at 17 d of age (W17), when fed an ad libitum volume of milk. Thirty Holstein heifer calves, balanced for parity of the dam, birth weight, and birth week, were randomly assigned (n = 15) to W0 or W17. Calves had free access to drinking water and a starter ration, offered in 2 separate buckets, until they were 70 d of age. Calves were bottle-fed with pasteurized whole milk 3× per day (2.0 kg/feeding until d 14, and 3.2 kg/feeding thereafter). Calves were partially weaned (33% of the milk allowance 1 × per day) at 42 d of age and completely weaned at 49 d of age. Drinking water intake, starter intake, milk intake, ambient temperature, and the fecal consistency were recorded daily. Body weight, hip height, hip width, heart girth, and body length were measured weekly. Blood (drawn from a jugular vein) was analyzed for hematocrit and haptoglobin concentrations at 14 d of age. On d 69 and 70, total fecal output of individual calves was measured and analyzed for chemical composition to determine apparent total-tract digestibility of nutrients. When offered from birth, newborn calves consumed 0.75 ± 0.05 kg/d water aside from the water they received from ad libitum milk allowance during the first 16 d. Once offered, W17 calves drank more water (59%) than W0 calves during the preweaning period. Starter intake of W0 and W17 calves was similar, but W0 calves consumed 0.285 kg/d more milk and tended to achieve greater body weight and heart girth compared with W17 calves during the preweaning period. Offering water from birth versus offering it later did not affect the number of days with diarrhea, intensity of diarrhea, or blood hematocrit and haptoglobin concentrations of preweaned calves. Despite a similar starter intake, W0 calves had greater hip height, body length, apparent total-tract digestibility of acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber, and feed efficiency than W17 calves postweaning (50 to 70 d of age). When followed up to 5 mo of age, W0 calves had greater body weight than W17 calves. Provision of drinking water immediately after birth could improve growth and development of calves pre- and postweaning, potentially by stimulating rumen development, thus increasing nutrient availability.