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J Dairy Sci. 2007 Jun;90 Suppl 1:E1-16.

Ruminal nitrogen metabolism: perspectives for integration of microbiology and nutrition for dairy.

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The MAPLE Research Initiative, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus 43210, USA.


Our objectives are to integrate current knowledge with a future perspective regarding how metagenomics can be used to integrate rumen microbiology and nutrition. Ruminal NH3-N concentration is a crude predictor of efficiency of dietary N conversion into microbial N, but as this concentration decreases below approximately 5 mg/dL (the value most often suggested to be the requirement for optimal microbial protein synthesis), blood urea N transfer into the rumen provides an increasing buffer against excessively low NH3-N concentrations, and the supply of amino N might become increasingly important to improve microbial function in dairy diets. Defaunation typically decreases NH3-N concentration, which should increase the efficiency of blood urea N and protein-derived NH3-N conversion into microbial protein in the rumen. Thus, we explain why more emphasis should be given toward characterization of protozoal interactions with proteolytic and deaminating bacterial populations. In contrast with research evaluating effects of protozoa on N metabolism, which has primarily been done with sheep and cattle with low dry matter intake, dairy cattle have greater intakes of readily available carbohydrate combined with increased ruminal passage rates. We argue that these conditions decrease protozoal biomass relative to bacterial biomass and increase the efficiency of protozoal growth, thus reducing the negative effects of bacterial predation compared with the beneficial effects that protozoa have on stabilizing the entire microbial ecosystem. A better understanding of mechanistic processes altering the production and uptake of amino N will help us to improve the overall conversion of dietary N into microbial protein and provide key information needed to further improve mechanistic models describing rumen function and evaluating dietary conditions that influence the efficiency of conversion of dietary N into milk protein.

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