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Nitrogen efficiency in contrasting dairy production systems

  • S. J. Whelan (a1) (a2), F. J. Mulligan (a3) and K. M. Pierce (a1)

Abstract

Nitrogen (N) losses from dairy production systems are a cause for environmental concern. Excreted primarily as urea N in the urine, this volatile form of N can be lost as ammonia (NH3) contributing to ground-level ozone, the greenhouse effect and the deterioration of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In addition, the production of urea N places a metabolic demand for energy on the dairy cow and excessively high levels of blood urea N are known to have deleterious effects on reproductive performance. Therefore, it is of interest to develop strategies that reduce N excretion from dairy cows and to this end, dietary manipulation of N efficiency offers great potential. There are a significant number of reports in the literature on N efficiency in the lactating dairy cow, including reducing dietary CP intake, improving the balance of amino acids reaching the small intestine, optimising the forage mix and optimising the energy sources in the diet. Across these experiments, N intake ranged from 0.33 to 0.67 kg/day with N efficiency ranging from 0.21 to 0.42. This paper will report on recent N balance experiments conducted at University College Dublin, as well as reports in the literature on studies aimed at improving N efficiency in the lactating dairy cow.

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