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Effect of dietary crude protein and forage contents on enteric methane emissions and nitrogen excretion from dairy cows simultaneously

M. Niu, J. A. D. R. N. Appuhamy, A. B. Leytem, R. S. Dungan, E. Kebreab
Animal production science 2016 v.56 no.3 pp. 312-321
urine, organic matter, milk, Holstein, blood, dairy cows, greenhouse gas emissions, feces, rumen microorganisms, crude protein, forage, lactose, barns, true protein, milk fat, alfalfa hay, milk yield, cages, excretion, free stalls, lipid content, diet, protein synthesis, methane production, nitrogen, lactation, methane, neutral detergent fiber, urea nitrogen
The study aimed to examine, simultaneously, the effects of changing dietary forage and crude protein (CP) contents on enteric methane (CH4) emissions and nitrogen (N) excretion from lactating dairy cows. Twelve post-peak lactating Holstein cows (157 ± 31 days postpartum; mean ± s.d.) were randomly assigned to four treatments from a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of two dietary forage levels [37.4% (LF) vs 53.3% (HF) of DM] and two dietary CP levels [15.2% (LP) vs 18.5% (HP) of DM] in a 4 × 4 Latin square design with four 18-day periods. Alfalfa hay was the sole source of dietary forage. Cows were fed ad libitum and milked twice daily. During the first 14 days, cows were housed in a free-stall barn, where enteric CH4 emissions were measured using the GreenFeed system from Days 8 to 14 in each period. Cows were then moved to metabolic cages, where faeces and urine output (kg/cow.day) were measured by total collection from Days 16 to 18 of each period. No dietary forage by CP interactions were detected for DM intake, milk production, enteric CH4 emissions, or N excretions. There was a tendency for DM intake to increase 0.6 kg/day in cows fed LF (P = 0.06). Milk production increased 2.1 kg/day in LF compared with HF (P < 0.01). Milk fat content decreased in cows fed LF compared with HF (1.07 vs 1.17 kg/day; P < 0.01). Milk contents of true protein, lactose and solid non-fat were greater in cows fed LF (P < 0.01). No difference in DM intake, milk yield and milk contents of true protein, lactose and solid non-fat was found between cows fed HP or LP. However, milk fat content increased 0.16 kg/day in cows fed HP (P < 0.05). Enteric CH4 emissions, and CH4 per unit of DM intake, energy-corrected milk, total digested organic matter and neutral detergent fibre were not affected by dietary CP, but decreased by LF compared with HF (P < 0.01). Milk true protein N was not affected by dietary CP content but was higher for LF compared with HF. Dietary N partitioned to milk true protein was greater in cows fed LF compared with HF (29.4% vs 26.7%; P < 0.01), also greater in cows fed LP compared with HP (30.8% vs 25.2%; P < 0.01). Dietary N partitioned to urinary N excretion was greater in cows fed HP compared with LP (39.5% vs 29.6%; P < 0.01) but was not affected by dietary CP content. Dietary N partitioned to faeces was not affected by dietary CP but increased in cows fed LP compared with HP (34.2% vs 27.8%; P < 0.01). Total N excretion (urinary plus faecal) as proportion to N intake did not differ between HP and LP, but tended to be lower in cows fed LF compared with the HF diet (64.2% vs 67.9%; P = 0.09). Both milk urea N (P < 0.01) and blood urea N (P < 0.01) declined with decreasing dietary CP or forage contents. Based on purine derivative analysis, there was a tendency for interaction between dietary CP and forage content on microbial protein synthesis (P < 0.09). Rumen microbial protein synthesis tended to be lower for high forage and low protein treatments. Increasing dietary forage contents resulted in greater CH4 emission (g/kg of energy-corrected milk) and manure N excretion (g/kg of energy-corrected milk) intensities of lactating dairy cows. Cows receiving reduced CP diets had low manure N outputs and improved milk true protein production efficiencies, regardless of dietary forage content.