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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Sep;93(9):4211-22. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2977.

Effect of dietary concentrate on rumen fermentation, digestibility, and nitrogen losses in dairy cows.

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Department of Animal and Veterinary Science, University of Idaho, Moscow 83844, USA.


The objective of this experiment was to investigate the effect of level of dietary concentrate on rumen fermentation, digestibility, and N losses in lactating dairy cows. The experiment was a replicated 3x3 Latin square design with 6 cows and 16-d adaptation periods. Ruminal contents were exchanged between cows at the beginning of each adaptation period. Data for 2 of the diets tested in this experiment are presented here. The diets contained (dry matter basis): 52% (LowC; control) and 72% (HighC) concentrate feeds. Crude protein contents of the diets were 16.5 and 16.4%, respectively. The HighC diet decreased ruminal pH and ammonia concentration and increased propionate concentration compared with LowC. Acetate:propionate ratio was greater for LowC than for HighC. Rumen methane production and microbial protein synthesis were unaffected by diet. Dry matter intake was similar among diets, but milk yield was increased by HighC compared with LowC (36.0 and 33.2 kg/d, respectively). Milk fat percentage and yield and total-tract apparent NDF digestibility were decreased by HighC compared with LowC. More ruminal ammonia N was transferred into milk protein with HighC than with LowC. Urinary N excretion, plasma urea N, and milk urea N concentration were not affected by diet. The ammonia emitting potential of manure was similar between LowC and HighC diets. Increased concentrate proportion in the diet of dairy cows resulted in reduced ruminal ammonia concentration and enhanced ammonia utilization for milk protein synthesis. These effects, however, did not result in reduced urinary N losses and only marginally improved milk N efficiency. Increasing dietary concentrate was not a successful strategy to mitigate enteric methane production and ammonia emissions from manure.

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