Nitrogen (N) excretion from livestock production systems is of significant environmental concern; however, few studies have investigated the effect of dietary CP concentration on N utilisation efficiency at different stages of lactation, and the interaction between dietary CP levels and stages of lactation on N utilisation. Holstein-Friesian dairy cows (12 primiparous and 12 multiparous) used in the present study were selected from a larger group of cows involved in a whole-lactation study designed to examine the effect of dietary CP concentration on milk production and N excretion rates at different stages of lactation. The total diet CP concentrations evaluated were 114 (low CP), 144 (medium CP) and 173 (high CP) g/kg DM, with diets containing (g/kg DM) 550 concentrates, 270 grass silage and 180 maize silage. During early (70-80 days), mid- (150-160 days) and late (230-240 days) lactation, the same 24 animals were transferred from the main cow house to metabolism units for measurements of feed intake, milk production and faeces and urine outputs. Diet had no effect on BW, body condition score, or milk fat, protein or lactose concentration, but DM intake, milk yield and digestibilities of DM, energy and N increased with increasing diet CP concentration. The effect of diet on milk yield was largely due to differences between the low and medium CP diets. Increasing dietary CP concentration significantly increased urine N/N intake and urine N/manure N, and decreased faecal N/N intake, milk N/N intake and manure N/N intake. Although increasing dietary CP level significantly increased urine N/milk yield and manure N/milk yield, differences in these two variables between low and medium CP diets were not significant. There was no significant interaction between CP level and stage of lactation on any N utilisation variable, indicating that the effects of CP concentration on these variables were similar between stages of lactation. These results demonstrated that a decrease in dietary CP concentration from high (173 g/kg DM) to medium level (144 g/kg DM) may be appropriate for Holstein-Friesian dairy cow to maintain milk production efficiency, whilst reducing both urine N and manure N as a proportion of N intake or milk production.
Keywords: Dietary protein; Environmental footprint; Lactating cow; Milk production; Urine nitrogen.
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