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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 January 2016
A previous study showed the additive methane (CH4)-mitigating effect of nitrate and linseed fed to non-lactating cows. Before practical application, the use of this new strategy in dairy cows requires further investigation in terms of persistency of methanogenesis reduction and absence of residuals in milk products. The objective of this experiment was to study the long-term effect of linseed plus nitrate on enteric CH4 emission and performance in dairy cows. We also assessed the effect of this feeding strategy on the presence of nitrate residuals in milk products, total tract digestibility, nitrogen (N) balance and rumen fermentation. A total of 16 lactating Holstein cows were allocated to two groups in a randomised design conducted in parallel for 17 weeks. Diets were on a dry matter (DM) basis: (1) control (54% maize silage, 6% hay and 40% concentrate; CON) or (2) control plus 3.5% added fat from linseed and 1.8% nitrate (LIN+NIT). Diets were equivalent in terms of CP (16%), starch (28%) and NDF (33%), and were offered twice daily. Cows were fed ad libitum, except during weeks 5, 16 and 17 in which feed was restricted to 95% of dry matter intake (DMI) to ensure complete consumption of meals during measurement periods. Milk production and DMI were measured weekly. Nitrate and nitrite concentrations in milk and milk products were determined monthly. Daily CH4 emission was quantified in open circuit respiration chambers (weeks 5 and 16). Total tract apparent digestibility, N balance and rumen fermentation parameters were determined in week 17. Daily DMI tended to be lower with LIN+NIT from week 4 to 16 (−5.1 kg/day on average). The LIN+NIT diet decreased milk production during 6 non-consecutive weeks (−2.5 kg/day on average). Nitrate or nitrite residuals were not detected in milk and associated products. The LIN+NIT diet reduced CH4 emission to a similar extent at the beginning and end of the trial (−47%, g/day; −30%, g/kg DMI; −33%, g/kg fat- and protein-corrected milk, on average). Diets did not affect N efficiency and nutrients digestibility. In the rumen, LIN+NIT did not affect protozoa number but reduced total volatile fatty acid (−12%) and propionate (−31%) concentrations. We concluded that linseed plus nitrate may have a long-term CH4-mitigating effect in dairy cows and that consuming milk products from cows fed nitrate may be safe in terms of nitrate and nitrite residuals. Further work is required to optimise the doses of linseed plus nitrate to avoid reduced cows performance.
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