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Invited review. Use of butyrate to promote gastrointestinal tract development in calves

  • Górka, P.
  • Kowalski, Z. M.
  • Zabielski, R
  • Guilloteau, Paul
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2018
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Promotion of microbial butyrate production in the reticulorumen is a widely used method for enhancing forestomach development in calves. Additional acceleration of gastrointestinal tract (GIT) development, both the forestomach and lower parts of the GIT (e.g., abomasum, intestine, and also pancreas), can be obtained by dietary butyrate supplementation. For this purpose, different sources (e.g., butyrate salts or butyrins), forms (e.g., protected or unprotected), methods (e.g., in liquid feed or solid feed), and periods (e.g., before or after weaning) of butyrate administration can be used. The aim of this paper was to summarize the knowledge in the field of butyrate supplementation in feeds for newborn calves in practical situations, and to suggest directions of future studies. It has been repeatedly shown that supplementation of unprotected salts of butyrate (primarily sodium salt) in milk replacer (MR) stimulates the rumen, small intestine, and pancreas development in calves, with a supplementation level equating to 0.3% of dry matter being sufficient to exert the desired effect on both GIT development and growth performance. On the other hand, the effect of unprotected butyrins and protected forms of butyrate supplementation in MR has not been extensively investigated, and few studies have documented the effect of butyrate addition into whole milk (WM), with those available focusing mainly on the growth performance of animals. Protected butyrate supplementation at a low level (0.3% of protected product in DM) in solid feed was shown to have a potential to enhance GIT development and performance of calves fed MR during the preweaning period. Justification of this form of butyrate supplementation in solid feed when calves are fed WM or after weaning needs to be documented. After weaning, inclusion of unprotected butyrate salts in solid feed was shown to increase solid feed intake, but the effect on GIT development and function has not been determined in detail, and optimal levels of supplementation are also difficult to recommend based on available reports. Future studies should focus on comparing different sources (e.g., salts vs. esters), forms (e.g., protected vs. unprotected), and doses of supplemental butyrate in liquid feeds and solid feeds and their effect not only on the development of rumen, abomasum, and small intestine but also the omasum and large intestine. Furthermore, the most effective source, form, and dose of supplemental butyrate in solid feed depending on the liquid feed program (e.g., MR or WM), stage of rearing (e.g., pre- or postweaning), and solid composition (e.g., lack or presence of forage in the diet) need to be determined.

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