Effects of dietary protein concentration and coconut oil supplementation on nitrogen utilization and production in dairy cows

C. Lee, A. N. Hristov, K. S. Heyler, T. W. Cassidy, M. Long, B. A. Corl, S. K.R. Karnati

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66 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of metabolizable protein (MP) deficiency and coconut oil supplementation on N utilization and production in lactating dairy cows. The hypothesis of the study was that a decrease in ruminal protozoal counts with coconut oil would increase microbial protein synthesis in the rumen, thus compensating for potential MP deficiency. The experiment was conducted for 10 wk with 36 cows (13 primiparous and 23 multiparous), including 6 ruminally cannulated cows. The experimental period, 6 wk, was preceded by 2-wk adaptation and 2-wk covariate periods. Cows were blocked by parity, days in milk, milk yield, and rumen cannulation and randomly assigned to one of the following diets: a diet with a positive MP balance (+44. g/d) and 16.7% dietary crude protein (CP) concentration (AMP); a diet deficient in MP (-156. g/d) and 14.8% CP concentration (DMP); or DMP supplemented with approximately 500. g of coconut oil/head per day (DMPCO). Ruminal ammonia tended to be greater and plasma urea N (20.1, 12.8, and 13.1. mg/dL, for AMP, DMP, and DMPCO diets, respectively) and milk urea N (12.5, 8.3, and 9.5. mg/dL, respectively) were greater for AMP compared with DMP and DMPCO. The DMPCO diet decreased total protozoa counts (by 60%) compared with DMP, but had no effect on the methanogens profile in the rumen. Total tract apparent digestibility of dry matter and CP was decreased by DMP compared with AMP. Fiber digestibility was lower for both DMP and DMPCO compared with AMP. Urinary N excretion was decreased (by 37%) by both DMP and DMPCO compared with AMP. The DMP and DMPCO diets resulted in greater milk N efficiency compared with AMP (32.0 and 35.1 vs. 27.6%, respectively). Milk yield was decreased by both DMP and DMPCO compared with AMP (36.2, 34.4, and 39.3. kg/d, respectively) and coconut oil supplementation suppressed feed intake and caused milk fat depression. Coconut oil supplementation decreased short-chain fatty acid (C4:0, C6:0, and C8:0) concentration and increased medium-chain (C12:0 and C14:0) and total trans fatty acids in milk. Overall, the MP-deficient diets decreased N losses, but could not sustain milk production in this study. Coconut oil decreased feed intake and similar to DMP, suppressed fiber digestibility. Despite decreased protozoal counts, coconut oil had no effect on the methanogen population in the rumen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5544-5557
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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