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J Dairy Sci. 2014 Mar;97(3):1611-22. doi: 10.3168/jds.2013-7162. Epub 2013 Dec 28.

Urea-N recycling in lactating dairy cows fed diets with 2 different levels of dietary crude protein and starch with or without monensin.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.
  • 2Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Electronic address:


Rumensin (monensin; Elanco Animal Health, Greenfield, IN) has been shown to reduce ammonia production and microbial populations in vitro; thus, it would be assumed to reduce ruminal ammonia production and subsequent urea production and consequently affect urea recycling. The objective of this experiment was to determine the effects of 2 levels of dietary crude protein (CP) and 2 levels of starch, with and without Rumensin on urea-N recycling in lactating dairy cattle. Twelve lactating Holstein dairy cows (107 ± 21 d in milk, 647 kg ± 37 kg of body weight) were fed diets characterized as having high (16.7%) or low (15.3%) CP with or without Rumensin, while dietary starch levels (23 vs. 29%) were varied between 2 feeding periods with at least 7d of adaptation between measurements. Cows assigned to high or low protein and to Rumensin or no Rumensin remained on those treatments to avoid carryover effects. The diets consisted of approximately 40% corn silage, 20% alfalfa hay, and 40% concentrate mix specific to the treatment diets, with 0.5 kg of wheat straw added to the high starch diets to enhance effective fiber intake. The diets were formulated using Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (version 6.1), and the low-protein diets were formulated to be deficient for rumen ammonia to create conditions that should enhance the demand for urea recycling. The high-protein diets were formulated to be positive for both rumen ammonia and metabolizable protein. Rumen fluid, urine, feces, and milk samples were collected before and after a 72-h continuous jugular infusion of (15)N(15)N-urea. Total urine and feces were collected during the urea infusions for N balance measurements. Milk yield and dry matter intake were improved in cows fed the higher level of dietary CP and by Rumensin. Ruminal ammonia and milk and plasma urea nitrogen concentrations corresponded to dietary CP concentration. As has been shown in vitro, Rumensin reduced rumen ammonia concentration by approximately 23% but did not affect urea entry rate or gastrointestinal entry rate. Urea entry rate averaged approximately 57% of total N intake for cattle with and without Rumensin, and gastrointestinal rate was similar at 43 and 42% of N intake for cattle fed and not fed Rumensin, respectively. The cattle fed the high-protein diet had a 25% increase in urea entry rate and no effect of starch level was observed for any recycling parameters. Contrary to our hypothesis, Rumensin did not alter urea production and recycling.

Copyright © 2014 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Rumensin; nitrogen efficiency; urea recycling

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