Effect of crude protein level in high grain diets on calf growth and feed utilization
This study assessed the effect of crude protein level in the diet on animal performance, feed conversion ratio and N utilization, in early-weaned lot-fed calves. Four iso-energetic rations were formulated (ME: 12.0 MJ/kg dm) differing in the crude protein content (CP: 12%, 15%, 17% and 21%, DM basis), and offered in a random experimental design to 24 Hereford calves (107.2 ± 21.5 kg). Animals were individually housed and fed ad libitum twice a day for 84 days. Increasing CP levels in the diet promoted a quadratic response (P<0.01) for dry matter intake (kg/d) and liveweight gain (LWG, kg/d), with maximum LWG of 1.36 kg/d for CP= 17.5%, without differences in subcutaneous back fat thickness (3.70 ± 0.73 mm, P = 0.25) or feed conversion ratio (4.44 ± 0.26, P> 0.10). As CP increased in the diet, N consumption increased quadratically (P <0.01), and an improvement was observed for CP (P = 0.053) and ndf (P = 0.020) apparent digestibility. Daily excretion of N in feces tended to decrease (P = 0.06), while urea-N concentration both in blood (P = 0.013) and urine (P = 0.046) increased. These results show that a level of 17% CP in the diet would optimize the performance of lot-fed early-weaned beef calves while controlling the excretion of N to the environment.
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