The objective of this study was to evaluate effects of partial replacement of dry ground corn with lactose in calf starters on dry matter intake, growth rate, ruminal pH, and volatile fatty acid profile. Sixty Holstein bull calves were raised on a high plane of nutrition program until 55 d of age. Calves were fed texturized calf starters containing 30.1% steam-flaked grains and lactose at 0 (control), 5, or 10% (n = 20 for each treatment) on a dry matter basis. All calves were fed treatment calf starters ad libitum from d 7 and kleingrass hay from d 35. Ruminal pH was measured continuously immediately after weaning (d 55–62) for 15 calves (n = 5 per treatment), and 3 wk after weaning (d 77 to 80) for the other 45 calves (n = 15 per treatment). Dry matter intake, growth performance, and ruminal pH variables were not affected by treatment. However, according to Spearman's correlation coefficient (rs) analyses, lactose intake was positively correlated with dairy minimum ruminal pH (rs = 0.306) for the data collected from d 77 to 80. Similarly, hay intake was not affected by treatment, but positively correlated with daily mean (rs = 0.338) and maximum ruminal pH (rs = 0.408) and negatively correlated with duration pH <5.8 (rs = −0.329) and area pH <5.8 (rs = −0.325), indicating that the variation in hay intake among animals might have masked treatment effects on ruminal pH. Ruminal molar ratio of acetate was higher (45.2 vs. 40.6%), and that of propionate was lower in 10% lactose than control (35.3 vs. 40.2%) for ruminal fluid collected on d 80; however, molar ratio of butyrate was not affected by treatment. These results indicate that lactose inclusion in calf starters up to 10% of dry matter might not affect dry matter intake and growth performance of calves, but that greater lactose and hay intake might be associated with higher ruminal pH.
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