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Studies That make you go hmm

Jim Linn and Mary Raeth-Knight, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

Published in Dairy Star December 2007

Are your cows tired of the same old drinking water? Are calves craving soymilk? Is garlic as good for cows as it is for people? Perhaps you've never pondered these questions; however, in the spirit of exploring unique research studies, this month's article is dedicated to 3 papers recently published in the Journal of Dairy Science that were conducted on these very topics.

Use of Flavored Drinking Water in Calves and Lactating Dairy Cows

L.C. Thomas et al., University of Guelph, Canada

Calf Study
Calves between 3 to 4 weeks of age were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatments: 1) unflavored water, 2) water with vanilla extract, or 3) water with orange extract. There was no difference in water intake across treatments with calves drinking approximately 1 quart of water per day. However, calves receiving the orange flavored water consumed more starter and gained more weight during the 3-week study than calves drinking unflavored or vanilla flavored water. Why or how orange flavoring increased feed intake is unknown and unexpected as vanilla flavoring is most often used in milk replacers.

Lactation Studies
Based on the calf response, orange flavoring was added to water of lactating cows and compared to unflavored water. Cows were also allowed either free access or restricted time access to water intake. Neither the inclusion of orange flavoring nor access to water had any impact on the amount of water consumed per day or dry mater (DM) intake. Milk yield was reduced when flavored water was offered during restricted water intake. In a 2-week study, cow preference for water flavor, orange versus unflavored, was determined. Cows drank 6 times more unflavored water during week 1 and 21 times more unflavored water during week 2 as compared to orange flavored water.

Flavored water may have the potential to enhance calf performance; however, a longer term study is needed. For cows, however, variety was not the spice of life. They preferred water just as it is.

Effects of Garlic and Juniper Berry Essential Oils on Ruminal Fermentation and on the Site and Extent of Digestion in Lactating Cows

W.Z. Zang et al., Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge and University of Alberta, Edmonton Canada

Mid-lactation Holstein cows were assigned to 1 of 4 treatments: 1) control, 2) monensin, 3) garlic oil, or 4) juniper berry oil. Cows were fed a TMR consisting of 30% barley silage, 10% alfalfa hay, and 60% concentrate (barley based). There was no difference in DM intake, milk yield or feed efficiency across treatments. Milk fat percentage was significantly lower for the monensin treatment (2.68%) compared to the control (3.14%), garlic (3.46%) or juniper oil (3.40%) treatments. Rumen fermentation and immune status was similar across treatments. Digestibility of protein in the rumen was higher for the garlic and juniper treatment as compared to the control or monensin. However, there was no treatment difference in total tract digestibility of DM, fiber, starch or protein.

Under the conditions of this study, there was no production or overall feed digestibility benefit of supplementing mid-lactation cows with monensin, garlic or juniper berry essential oils.

Our question is: What affect did the garlic treatment have on the breath of the cows? Is a follow up study on the use of breath mints as a feed additive needed?

Soymilk as a Novel Milk Replacer to Stimulate Early Calf Starter Intake and Reduce Weaning Age and Costs

G.R. Ghorbani, et al., Isfahan University of Technology, Iran

At four days of age, 27 Holstein calves were assigned to 1 of 3 treatments: 1) whole milk, 2) 75% whole milk + 25% soymilk (75:25), or 3) 50% soymilk + 50% whole milk (50:50). Calves were fed treatments at 10% of body weight and were weaned when consuming more than 2 lbs of starter per day. Calves were 2 months or older at the time of weaning. Calves fed the 50:50 soy-whole milk replacer were weaned 9 days earlier than calves fed the other two treatments. However, average daily gain from birth to weaning was better for the whole milk fed calves (1.14 lb/day) compared to the 50:50 soy-whole milk fed calves (1.05 lb/day). There was no difference in fecal scores across treatments. Weaning feed cost was greater for the whole milk as compared to the 50:50 soy-whole milk treatment costing $1.48 compared to $1.21 per lb of gain, respectively.


This study is complicated by calves fed the 50:50 soy-whole milk receiving less milk solids during the liquid feeding period than calves fed whole milk. Feeding lower amounts of milk solids is known to increase starter intake at an earlier age and result in calves consuming weaning target amounts of starter at an earlier age, which was observed in this study. Thus, soymilk can be a partial substitute for whole milk in milk feeding programs without health problems when calves are provided high quality starter free choice. However, we do believe the calves fed 100% whole milk exclaimed: Got Milk - The Real Thing!

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