Performance of Holstein calves having free access to milk and dosed with Megasphaera elsdenii

24 Jul 2017

Megasphaera elsdenii converts lactate and glucose into butyrate, the main volatile fatty acid responsible of papillae development and may benefit calf performance. Twenty-six Holstein calves (BW = 34.5 ± 1.65 kg) were randomly assigned at birth to a control group (Meg0) and a group that received an oral dose of M. elsdenii NCIMB 41125 at 14 d of age (Meg14). Calves received colostrum for the first 3 d followed by free choice access to whole milk until weaning at 56 d. From d 4 onward, starter and water were offered ad libitum. Intakes were measured daily and body weights (BW) weekly. Blood samples were collected on day 7, 21, 28, 42, and 56 for β-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) analysis. Performance was measured for an additional 14 d post-weaning. Pre-weaning milk intake was lower (p = 0.010) and starter DMI (dry matter intake) greater (p = 0.001) for Meg14 than Meg0 calves. Total DMI, metabolisable energy (ME) intake and average daily gain (ADG) were similar (p > 0.05) for both groups, but Meg14 calves had greater weaning BW (p = 0.012) and feed efficiency (p < 0.029). The average BHBA between d 21 and 56 was greater for Meg14 (p = 0.03) compared to Meg0 calves. After weaning, Meg14 calves had greater DMI (p = 0.027), ME intake (p = 0.023) and ADG (p = 0.002) and tended to have better feed efficiencies (p = 0.07) than Meg0 calves. Administering M. elsdenii NCIMB 41125 improved starter intake and feed efficiency, which was associated with high blood BHBA.