Effects of L-Glutamine Supplementation on Growth, Starter Intake and Health of Early-Weaned Dairy Heifer Calves

  • Janaka Wickramasinghe (Iowa State University)
  • Ranga Appuhamy (Iowa State University)


The present study was conducted to examine the effects of L-glutamine supplementation (2.0% of total DM intake) during weaning on starter intake, growth performance, and health status of Holstein heifer calves fed a high volume of milk (9 qt/d). Thirty-six calves of 4 wk of age were assigned to three treatments, 1) a later weaning age of 49 d, 2) an early weaning age of 35 d, and 3) the early weaning age supplemented with L-glutamine. Weaning was commenced by reducing the daily milk allowance from 9.0 to 3.0 qt. Calves were completely weaned once they achieved a 1.0 kg/d starter intake over two consecutive days. The results revealed that early-weaned calves receiving glutamine had a greater average daily gain (ADG) as opposed to early-weaned calves not receiving glutamine during weaning. Moreover, early-weaned calves receiving L-glutamine took fewer number of days to achieve a starter intake of 1.0 kg/d (15 vs. 17 d), and thus weaned completely at a younger age (50 vs. 52 d). Calves receiving L-glutamine had numerically lower (1.04 vs. 1.78 g/L) serum haptoglobin concentrations than those not receiving L-glutamine during weaning. Moreover, calves supplemented with L-glutamine had greater hip width and body length post-weaning (9 to 10 wk of age). Calves weaned partially at 49 d of age were weaned completely at 59 d of age. Body weight, starter intake, and ADG of the lateweaned calves were similar to that of early-weaned calves regardless of L-glutamine supplementation. The present study demonstrated a possibility of weaning dairy calves as early as 5 wk of age without compromising growth performance and feed intake post-weaning in systems where calves are fed a high volume of milk. The results further highlighted that supplementation of L-glutamine could help those calves face weaning stress successfully as indicated by improved ADG and faster increments in starter intake during weaning.

How to Cite:

Wickramasinghe, J. & Appuhamy, R., (2019) “Effects of L-Glutamine Supplementation on Growth, Starter Intake and Health of Early-Weaned Dairy Heifer Calves”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 16(1).

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Published on
12 Aug 2019