This communication deals with the results of two experiments in which the “nitrogen-balance,” or difference between nitrogen-consumption and nitrogen-excretion by the cow, has been studied over prolonged periods, starting with the “dry” cow, not in calf, proceeding through the whole period of pregnancy and well into the period of active lactation.
Experiment 1 was performed throughout with the two cows, “dry” and not in calf, receiving a basal ration of hay to which was added increasing amounts of maize meal with a view to securing a progressively increasing consumption of nitrogen. This experiment lasted 196 days, during which period determinations of the nitrogen-balance were made on 90 days.
Experiment 2 was carried out similarly with two cows, and covered a period of 722 days, including 546 days on which determinations of the nitrogen-balance were made. Throughout the whole of this period one cow (Cow C) was maintained “dry” and not in calf, as control cow, whilst the other cow (Cow D) after 302 days became pregnant and its record was followed throughout the stages of pregnancy and parturition and for the first 136 days of active lactation.
The outstanding features of the results are as follows:
(1) With the progressive increase of nitrogen-consumption beyond the fundamental requirements of the dry cow the rate of nitrogen-retention steadily increases to a maximum and then falls. The maximum appears to be attained under the conditions of our experiment with a protein-supply in the neighbourhood of 2·4 kg. crude protein per 1000 kg. live-weight. There are indications that this figure may be independent of the nature of the foods fed along with hay.
(2) When the cow is maintained upon a ration which causes an initial nitrogen-retention the rate of retention falls steadily, but a very prolonged period—up to 90–100 days—may be necessary before nitrogenequilibrium is attained.
(3) Even after nitrogen-equilibrium is established and a relatively constant nitrogen-consumption is maintained, there may arise from time to time considerable deviations from equilibrium either in the positive or negative direction. It would appear therefore that for reliable work of this character long experimental periods are essential.
(4) The very earliest stages of pregnancy are marked by a profound disturbance of nitrogen metabolism, the requirement for maintenance of nitrogen-equilibrium being very sensibly increased. This additional requirement persists at a steadily reduced rate for some 15 to 20 weeks, after which it is very small. Over the whole period of pregnancy the average rate of nitrogen-retention was only about 2·4 gm. per day.
(5) During parturition and for a few days subsequently the output of nitrogen is very great and more than can be restored rapidly by food-consumption. With the experimental cow, giving barely three gallons of milk per day at most, some two to three weeks elapsed after calving before nitrogen-equilibrium was restored.
(6) It would appear that to maintain nitrogen-equilibrium during lactation, the food must supply from twice to three times the amount of nitrogen secreted in the milk, in addition to that required for the maintenance of equilibrium in the “dry” state. This represents a food-consumption which would be difficult to attain in the case of cows giving large yields of milk, and accounts for the familiar difficulty of maintaining the “condition” of such cows in the earlier stages of lactation.