The present study evaluated the effects of isovalerate supplementation on the development of the small intestinal mucosa in dairy calves. Forty-eight Chinese Holstein bull calves at 15 days of age and 45.1 ± 0.36 kg of body weight were assigned randomly to four groups. The treatments were control, low-isovalerate, moderate-isovalerate and high-isovalerate with 0, 3, 6 and 9 g isovalerate per calf per day, respectively. The study comprised 75 days with a 15-day adaptation period followed by a 60-day sampling period. Calves were weaned at 60 days of age. Six calves were chosen from each treatment at random and slaughtered at 30 and 90 days of age. The small intestine morphology and activities of amylase and trypsin improved significantly with increasing age. No interaction between treatments and age was observed. The small intestine length, mucosa layer thickness, villus height and crypt depth increased linearly with increasing isovalerate supplementation. However, the ratio of villus height to crypt depth was not affected by treatment. Activities of amylase and trypsin increased linearly. The lactase activity increased linearly during the 75-day period and for pre-weaned calves but was unaltered for post-weaned calves. The relative mRNA expressions of growth hormone receptor, insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor and sodium-glucose co-transporter-1 in the small intestine mucosa increased linearly, and a similar pattern was observed for the expression of peptide transporter-1 in the duodenum and proximal jejunum. The results suggested that small intestine development was promoted by isovalerate in a dose-dependent manner.