This experiment aimed to evaluate the growth of Holstein Zebu crossbred calves, from birth to 90 days of age, early weaned, with or without available roughage from the second week of age on. The trial was carried out at the Itaguaí Experimental Station, from PESAGRO-RJ, from January up to April, 2000. Twenty-seven calves were used, randomly assigned to blocks according to sex and birth weight, in the following experimental treatments: (1) only starter; (2) starter plus Cynodon nhenfluensis paddocks grazed from the 15th day of age on; and, (3) starter plus Medicago sativa hay. Calves were separated from their dams twenty-four hours after birth and kept to individual pens. All animals received colostrum up to the 3rd day of age and, from there on, four litters of whole milk/animal/day, up to the 56th day of age, and commercial starter (18%CP) up to a maximum of 2.0kg/animal/day from the second week of age on. Animals from treatments 1 and 3 were kept on their pens up to 70 days of age, those from treatment 3 received, in separated feeders, chopped alfalfa hay (18%CP, particle size of 5cm), ad libitum, from the 8th day on. Animals in treatment 2 had access to paddocks from 8:00 to 14: 00h. Milk, starter and hay intakes, as well as diarrhoea and nasal flow incidences were measured daily up to 70 days of age. Body weight and barrel and heart girth were taken weekly. There were no difference (P>0.05) between calves fed roughage (treatments 2 and 3) for starter intake; however, animals allowed to graze showed lower (P<0.05) starter intake. Average total dry matter intake and feed efficiency were similar (P>0.05) for treatments 1 and 3. There were no differences (P>0.05) among treatments for average daily weight gain, as well as diarrhea, nasal flow incidences and barrel and heart girth. It was concluded that roughage may be supplied to calves from day 56th of age on, without impairing their development, when starter is offered since the second week of age.
calves; dairy calves; roughages; early weaning