The digestion of lactose in calves
Calves have the capability to digest milk directly after birth, thanks to the enzyme lactase which is present in the small intestine. Lactose is hydrolyzed into the sugars glucose and galactose Lactase activity is high in milk-fed calves.
Glucose is preferably taken up in the small intestine. Galactose can be metabolized to glucose in the liver and then slowly released to the blood as an energy source. Thus, lactose provides energy to young animals.
The absorption of calcium
Besides energy, lactose enhances the intestinal absorption of calcium.
Calcium is an important mineral in body tissue and, when deficient, it results in reduced growth and development of the calf. Calcium absorption is enhanced by a lower pH. This is achieved by acid forming bacteria that can grow on lactose.
Lactose is also known to induce the growth of beneficial intestinal microflora, thus limiting the colonization of potential pathogenic flora such as E. coli, Clostridium or Salmonella.
|In summary, lactose: