The effects of ruminally degraded protein on rumen fermentation and ammonia losses from manure in dairy cows

M. Agle, A. N. Hristov, S. Zaman, C. Schneider, P. Ndegwa, V. K. Vaddella

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This experiment investigated the effect of dietary crude protein (CP) and ruminally degraded protein (RDP) levels on rumen fermentation, digestibility, ammonia emission from manure, and performance of lactating dairy cows. The experiment was a replicated 3 × 3 Latin square design with 6 cows. Three diets varying in CP concentration were tested (CP, % of dry matter): 15.4 (high CP, control), 13.4 (medium CP), and 12.9% (low CP). These diets provided metabolizable protein balances of 323, -44, and 40 g/d and RDP balances of 162, -326, and -636 g/d (high, medium, and low, respectively). Both the medium and low CP diets decreased ruminal pH compared with high CP, most likely because of the higher nonfiber carbohydrate concentration in the former diets. Ruminal ammonia pool size (rumen ammonia N was labeled with 15N) and the concentration of total free amino acids were greater for the high CP diet than for the RDP-deficient diets. Apparent total-tract nutrient digestibilities were not affected by treatment. Both the medium and low CP diets resulted in lower absolute and relative excretion of urinary N compared with the high CP diet, as a proportion of N intake. Excretion of fecal N and milk yield and composition were not affected by diet. Milk N efficiency (milk N ÷ N intake) and the cumulative secretion of ammonia-15N in milk protein were greater for the RDP-deficient diets, and milk urea N concentration was greater for the high CP diet. Both medium and low CP diets decreased the irreversible loss of ruminal ammonia N compared with the high CP diet. The rate and cumulative ammonia emissions from manure were lower for the medium and low CP diets compared with the high CP diet. Overall, this study demonstrated that dairy diets with reduced CP and RDP concentrations will produce manure with lower ammonia-emitting potential without affecting cow performance, if metabolizable protein requirements are met.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1625-1637
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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