Effects of Bedding Material Composition in Deep Litter Systems on Bedding Characteristics and Growth Performance of Limousin Calves

  • Meng, J. ;
  • Shi, F.H. ;
  • Meng, Qingxiang ;
  • Ren, L.P. ;
  • Zhou, Z.M. ;
  • Wu, H. ;
  • Zhao, L.P.
  • Received : 2014.02.09
  • Accepted : 2014.08.04
  • Published : 2015.01.01


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of different litter mixture compositions on bedding system temperature, pH and volatile fatty acid and ammonia-N ($NH_3$-N) content, and the serum physico-chemical parameters and growth indices of calves. Thirty-two Limousin calves ($280{\pm}20kg$) were randomly assigned to four groups (n = 8 for each group) according to the bedding system used: i) control with soil only (CTR); ii) mixture with 50% paddy hulls (PH), 30% saw dusts (SD), 10% peat moss (PM) and 10% corn cobs (CC) (TRT1); iii) mixture with 15% PH, 15% SD, 10% PM, 40% CC, and 20% corn stover (CS) (TRT2); iv) mixture with 30% PH, 10% PM, 40% CC, and 20% CS (TRT3). The litter material combinations of different treatments were based on the cost of bedding system materials in China. The cost of four treatments from low to high: Control$NH_3$-N level (271.83 to 894.72 mg/kg) was lowest for TRT1 (p<0.0001) and highest for TRT2 (p<0.0001). The acetate, propionate and butyrate levels were highest for the control group (p<0.0001). In all the groups, the pH value (6.90 to 9.09) increased at the beginning and later remained stable at below 9.09. The temperature of deep litter increased at the first week and reached the maximum ($42.1^{\circ}C$) on day 38. 3,5,3'-Triiodothyronine ($T_3$) levels in the TRT1 group animals (p<0.0001) were lower than those in the control and TRT2 animals. 3,5,3',5'-Tetraiodothyronine ($T_4$) in the TRT1 group (p = 0.006) was lower than that in the other treatment groups. Cortisol (COR) in the control and TRT1 group was lower (p<0.0001) than that in the TRT2 and TRT3 groups. Corticosterone (CORt) in the control group was higher (p<0.0001) than that in the treatment groups. The findings indicate that the deep litter bedding systems provided better conditions for animal health and growth performance compared with the control system. Furthermore, the litter composition of TRT1 was found to be optimal among the three treatment groups.


Bedding Systems;Volatile Fatty Acids;Serum Physico-chemical Parameters;Ammonia-N;Limousin Calves


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