The effect of sheep genetic merit and feed allowance on nitrogen partitioning and isotopic discrimination.

Hassan Khanaki, RJ Dewhurst, Brian Leury, Gonzalo Cantalapiedra-Hijar, Grant R. Edwards, Chris M. Logan, Long Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Animal nitrogen (N) partitioning is a key parameter for profitability and sustainability of ruminant production systems, which may be predicted from N isotopic discrimination or fractionation (D15N). Both animal genetics and feeding level may interact and impact on N partitioning. Therefore, this study aimed to assess the interactive effects of genetic merit (G) and feed allowance (F) on N partitioning and D15N in sheep. The sheep were drawn from two levels of G (high G vs. low G; based on New Zealand Sheep Improvement Limited ( dual (wool and meat) growth index) and allocated to two levels of F (1.7 (high F) vs. 1.1 (low F) times Metabolisable Energy requirement for maintenance) treatments. Twenty-four Coopworth rams were divided into four equal groups for a N balance study: high G high F, high G low F, low G high F, and low G low F. The main factors (G and F) and the interaction
term were used for 2-way ANOVA and regression analysis. Higher F led to higher N excretions (urinary N (UN); faecal N (FN); manure N), retained N, N use efficiency (NUE), and urinary purine derivatives excretion (P < 0.05). On the other hand, higher UN/N intake, and plasma D15N were observed with the lower F (P < 0.05). Higher G led to increased UN, FN, manure N, apparent N digestibility, and urinary purine derivatives excretion (P < 0.05). Higher F only increased UN in high G sheep, with no effect on low G sheep (P < 0.05). Regression analysis results demonstrated potential to use plasma D15N to reflect the effects of G and F on NUE and UN/N intake. Further research is urged to study interactive effects of genetic and feeding level on sheep N partitioning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100400
Issue number12
Early online date10 Nov 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - Dec 2021


  • Biomarker
  • Nitrogen-15
  • Small ruminants
  • Stable isotope
  • Sustainability


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