This study evaluated how feeding colostrum- or a colostrum-milk mixture for 3 d postnatal affects plasma glucagon-like peptide-2 (GLP-2), serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and small intestinal histomorphology in calves. Holstein bulls (n = 24) were fed colostrum at 2 h postnatal and randomly assigned to receive either colostrum (COL), whole milk (WM), or a 1:1 COL:WM mixture (MIX) every 12 h from 12 to 72 h. A jugular venous catheter was placed at 1 h postnatal to sample blood frequently for the duration of the experiment. Samples were collected at 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 11, and 12 h. Following the 12-h meal, blood was collected at half-hour intervals until 16 h and then at 1-h intervals from 16 to 24 h. A 27-h sample was taken, then blood was sampled every 6 h from 30 to 60 h. Again, blood was taken at half-intervals from 60 to 64 h, then at 65 and 66 h, following which, a 2-h sampling interval was used until 72 h. Plasma GLP-2 (all time points) and serum IGF-1 (at time points: 1, 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 72 h) were both analyzed. Duodenal, jejunal, and ileal tissues were collected at 75 h of age to assess histomorphology and cellular proliferation. Feeding COL, rather than WM, increased plasma GLP-2 by 60% for 2 h and tended to increase GLP-2 by 49.4% for 4 h after the 60-h meal. Insulin-like growth factor-1 area under the curve (from 12 to 72 h) tended to be 27% greater for COL than WM calves but was otherwise unaffected by treatment. Ileal crypts tended to proliferate more with MIX than WM, whereas ileal crypt proliferation did not differ for COL compared with MIX or WM and was not different between treatments in the proximal jejunum. Villi height was increased 1.8 and 1.5× (COL and MIX vs. WM) in the proximal and distal jejunum, respectively, whereas MIX duodenal and ileal villi height tended to be 1.5 and 1.4× that of WM. Crypt depth did not differ in any region. Surface area of the gastrointestinal tract was reduced for WM by 60 and 58% (proximal jejunum) and 38 and 52% (ileum) relative to COL and MIX and was 54% less than MIX in the distal jejunum. Overall, extended COL feeding minimally increased plasma GLP-2 and serum IGF-1 compared with WM feeding. As COL and MIX similarly promoted small intestinal maturation, feeding calves transition milk to promote intestinal development could be a strategy for producers.
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