Effects of mixtures of red clover and maize silages on the partitioning of dietary nitrogen between milk and urine by dairy cows

RJ Dewhurst, LJ Davies, EJ Kim

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Eight multiparous lactating Holstein–Friesian cows were used to evaluate the partitioning of dietary nitrogen (N) from diets based on mixtures of red clover and maize silages in comparison with diets based on ryegrass silage. All cows received 4 kg/day of a standard dairy concentrate with one of four forage treatments in an incomplete changeover design with three 4-week periods. Three treatments were based on mixtures of red clover and maize silage. N intake was altered both by varying the ratio of these silages (40/60 and 25/75 on a dry matter (DM) basis) and by an additional treatment for which the DM intake of the 40/60 mixture was restricted to the level achieved with grass silage. Rumen passage rates were estimated from faecal excretion curves following a pulse oral dose of Dysprosium-labeled silage and urinary excretion of purine derivatives (PD) was used as an index of rumen microbial protein synthesis. Red clover silage mixtures led to significantly increased feed intake (21.5, 20.7 and 15.2 kg DM/day for 40/60 and 25/75 red clover/maize silage mixtures and grass silage, respectively), milk production (25.8, 27.8 and 20.0 kg/day for the same treatments, respectively) and milk component yields, but were without effect on milk fat and protein concentrations. The large increase in the yield of milk (24.5 kg/day) and milk components for the restricted red clover/maize silage treatment, in comparison with the grass silage treatment, was proportionately greater than the increase in DM intake (16.6 kg DM/day). There were no significant treatment effects on diet digestibility, while the higher intakes of red clover silage mixtures were associated with higher rumen passage rates (5.82%, 6.24% and 4.55%/h, respectively). There were significant effects of both N intake and forage source on the partitioning of dietary N between milk and urine. When dietary protein was diluted by the inclusion of maize silage, red clover silage led to increased milk N and reduced urinary N in comparison with grass silage. Improvements in N utilisation may be related to increased dietary starch and/or rumen passage rates leading to increased microbial protein synthesis for these treatments. Urinary excretion of PD was significantly higher for all diets based on mixtures of red clover and maize silages, in comparison with grass silage. Urinary N output was close to literature predictions based on N intake for the diet based on ryegrass silage, but 40 to 80 g/day (25% to 30%) less than predicted for the diets based on the mixtures of red clover and maize silages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)732-738
Issue number5
Publication statusPrint publication - May 2010


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