Effects of increasing dietary protein on nutrient utilization in heifers

M. T. Gabler, A. J. Heinrichs

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36 Scopus citations


Four prepubertal Holstein heifers, average age 146.0 ± 3.6 d and 152.8 ± 8.6 kg of body weight (BW), fitted with rumen cannulae were used to evaluate increasing levels of dietary protein with a constant metabolizable energy intake on rumen ammonia N concentrations, N balance, total tract apparent digestibility, and urinary excretion of purine derivatives in a 4 ± 4 Latin square design with 20 d periods. Heifers were fed dietary crude protein levels (CP) of 11.9, 16.7, 18.1, and 20.1% CP with similar amounts of metabolizable energy (ME) (2.6 Mcal per kg of dry matter) at 2.0% BW as dry matter intake. Resulting protein to ME ratios (CP:ME) were 45.0, 63.3, 69.4, and 77.3 g of dietary CP per Mcal of ME. Rumen ammonia N and plasma urea nitrogen increased as CP level increased. Rumen pH, volatile fatty acids, and the acetate-to-propionate ratio were not affected with increasing CP levels. Greater urinary N excretion resulted in an increase in total N excretion with increasing CP levels. Apparent dry matter digestibility was similar for all diets, while apparent total tract N digestibility was lowest for the 11.9% CP level. Microbial N calculated from urinary excretion of purine derivatives increased with increasing CP levels. Holstein heifers between 153 and 196 kg consuming a diet at 2.0% BW as dry matter intake containing a CP level of 16.7% achieved a better synergistic relationship of dietary protein to energy (CP:ME of 63.3 g of CP per Mcal of ME) than the diets lower or higher in CP that were studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2170-2177
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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