Suitability of n-alkanes and chromium (III) oxide as digestibility markers in calves at the end of the milk feeding period supplemented with a prebiotic
Prebiotics reveal positive effects on the growth performance of pigs and poultry, and might influence intestinal microflora. This, in consequence, could alter recovery rates of digestibility markers. In the current study, we evaluated the suitability of Chromium (III) oxide (Cr2O3) and the synthetic alkanes n-dotriacontane (C32) and n-hexatriacontane (C36) as external markers for digestibility estimation compared to the standard total collection method in calves supplemented with galacto-oligosaccharides. Eight male German Holstein calves (age of 57 ± 8 days) were divided into 2 milk replacer feeding groups (group receiving galacto-oligosaccharides [A] and control group [B]). Each of 2 groups of 4 individually fed calves received a distinct milk replacer with added markers for 14 days. They were fed twice daily restrictively with milk replacer, concentrate and hay. After an adaptation period of 10 days, total faeces were collected. Faecal marker recoveries (FMR, means ± SD) for C32 were (72 ± 14)% for A and (80 ± 12)% for B. Faecal marker recoveries for C36 was (82 ± 15)% and (88 ± 13)% for groups A and B, respectively. The FMR for Cr2O3 was (102 ± 11)% and (100 ± 1)% for groups A and B, respectively. There were no significant differences between total collection organic matter digestibility and marker based organic matter digestibility when using Cr2O3 and C36. But, when utilizing C32 to calculate nutrient digestibilities, results differed from the total collection method for organic matter, crude protein and ether extract. The results indicate that Cr2O3 and C36 can be applied in digestibility studies with calves and give accurate estimates for OM and nutrient digestibilities without correction for FMR.