The experiment, conducted at Bahia, Brazil, from May to August 2010, aimed to evaluate the nitrogen (N) balance, urea excretion and microbial protein synthesis in lactating goats fed pelleted concentrates with the addition of crude protein (CP), obtained by replacing alfalfa hay with soybean meal. The diets consisted of different levels of CP and 200 g of roughage (Tifton 85 hay)/kg. Maize and mesquite bran were used as the energy source, with maize replaced by mesquite bran in the ratio of 1·7:1. Eight female Saanen goats were used, confined in individual pens and allocated to a 4 × 4 Latin square design. The N balance in the body was positive, and loss of body weight (–0·03 g/day) was observed for the diet with 190 g CP/kg. The concentration (mg/dl) of urea in urine, milk and blood plasma was positively influenced in a linear form, and the highest rate of increase was found in urine, with 2 mg/dl for every 10 g CP/kg added to the diet. The microbial protein synthesis was not affected, but the diets reduced the microbial protein (44 g/day) and its ruminal production efficiency (30 g/kg total digestible nutrients). The levels above 190 g of CP are not recommended because of the energy expenditure required to excrete the urea.