Digestive disorders are common during the first few weeks of life of newborn calves. Prebiotics are nondigestible but fermentable oligosaccharides that modulate growth and activity of beneficial microbial populations, which can result in enhanced gut health and function. Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) have demonstrated such prebiotic potential. In this study, the effect of GOS supplementation on intestinal bacterial community composition and fermentation profiles; intestinal health, development, and function; and growth was evaluated in dairy calves fed for high rates of growth. Eighty male Holstein calves were assigned either to a control treatment consisting of commercial milk replacer or to a GOS-rich (i.e., 3.4% of dry matter) milk replacer treatment. After 2 and 4 wk, 8 calves per treatment were slaughtered at each age. Samples of intestinal digesta and tissue were collected for assessment of bacterial communities, short-chain fatty acid concentrations, in vitro measurement of nutrient transport and permeability, histomorphology, and gastrointestinal organ size. The remaining 48 calves continued to wk 8 to measure body growth, nutrient intake, and fecal and respiratory scores. Calves fed GOS displayed greater Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium relative abundance and more developed intestinal epithelial structures, but also had greater fecal scores presumably related to greater colonic water secretion. Control calves showed slightly better growth and milk dry matter intake. Size of intestinal organs, intestinal nutrient transport, and epithelium paracellular resistance were not affected by treatment. Excessive GOS supplementation had both prebiotic and laxative effects, which led to slightly lower growth performance while promoting commensal bacteria population and greater intestinal epithelium growth.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by Milk Specialties Global (Eden Prairie, MN) and State of Illinois and USDA-CREES funds appropriated to the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station. The authors thank K. A. Tappenden (Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, Urbana) for providing materials, expertise, and personnel support in measurement of gut nutrient transport, barrier function, and histology. The technical help of the many graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Animal Sciences (University of Illinois) in care of calves, sampling, and slaughter processing of calves was indispensable to success of the project. The authors appreciate the partial financial support and MR manufacturing providing by Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition (Eden Prairie, MN). The authors thank Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products (Arden Hills, MN) for donation of the electrolyte products.
- gut health