The aim of this trial was to investigate the effects of a blend of monoglycerides of short- and medium-chain fatty acids (SMCFA) on health status and growth of preweaned male calves from 16 to 72 days of age. The in vivo study was conducted as a complete randomised block design. Twenty Italian Holstein calves received starter administered ad libitum and 6 L of milk replacer/ day (12% powder concentration) and were divided into treated (T) and control (C) groups. A preliminary in vitro antibiotic activity test of SMCFA was performed on several bacterial strains showing a minimum inhibiting concentration ranging from 0.8 to 12.5%. The group T received SMCFA (11 g/day) within the milk replacer while, to obtain isoenergetic liquid diets, the group C received additional 18 g/day of milk replacer powder. Body weight and morphological measurements of the calves were performed weekly. Health scores were checked daily. Faecal and blood samples were collected every two weeks for routine clinical investigations including serum concentration of non-esterified fatty acids and b-Hydroxybutyric acid. At the end of the trial calves were slaughtered and gastrointestinal tract (GIT) organs weighed. The group T reported a better health status and did not require Ab therapy. No differences in biometrical measurements, feed efficiency, blood parameters, and GIT measures were found between the two groups. At 44 days of age, group T showed higher b-Hydroxybutyric acid concentration compared to group C (p<.05). The SMCFA improved the calf health status avoiding the use of antimicrobics.
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