Sodium butyrate supplementation in low-starch calf starters enhances growth

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Deb Drury
© GettyImages/Deb Drury

Related tags butyrate calf starter dairy cows

A newly published paper outlines how sodium butyrate (SB) and starch interaction reduces systemic inflammation in post-weaned calves.

Hay intake and calf growth can benefit from such supplementation, found the researchers.

Blood markers indicate that SB primarily affects energy metabolism in calves, they added.

Previous research indicated that butyrate, specifically in the form of tributyrin, can help manage inflammation in dairy calves before weaning. This study focused on the interaction between the starch content of calf starters and SB supplementation, aiming to understand their impact on inflammation in the stomach, liver, and overall growth postweaning.

“Whether there exists an interaction between starch content and SB supplementation remains an unexplored area regarding the inflammation response and growth performance of dairy calves during the post-weaned stage,” wrote​ ​the authors.

The study

Researchers fed 32 individually raised Holstein calves different diets—low-starch without SB, low-starch with SB, high-starch without SB, and high-starch with SB. After fully weaning the calves on day 65, data on their water, oat hay, and starter consumption were collected regularly. Biopsies of liver and rumen tissue were taken on day 65, and growth performance and blood samples were gathered on days 3, 7, 14, and 21 postweaning.

The findings 

The team saw that interactions between the starch content of starters and SB supplementation significantly affected hay intake, average daily gain, and feed efficiency between one and three days postweaning. For instance, the low-starch starter with SB supplementation group showed a higher average daily gain compared to the other groups, particularly when compared to the high-starch starter with SB supplementation, they reported. 

These interactive responses correlated with inflammation-related markers in the liver, rumen, and blood, said the scientists.

The study emphasizes the significant interplay between starch levels and SB supplementation in calf starters, impacting both inflammation and growth in weaned calves, especially during the crucial initial postweaning period, they added.

“Notably, SB supplementation demonstrates beneficial effects when incorporated into a low-starch starter yet shows no marked impact when integrated into a high-starch starter,” commented the authors.

These findings, stressed the team, show the importance of carefully balancing SB supplementation and taking account of starch levels and hay availability in calf starters to optimize health and growth outcomes.

Source: Animal Feed Science and Technology

Title: Interactions of starter starch and sodium butyrate for postweaned dairy calves: Growth performance, blood indices, and inflammation

Authors: Xu et al


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