Lowering dietary protein concentration is known to decrease urinary nitrogen (N) losses and increase milk N efficiency in dairy cows, but it may negatively affect animal productivity. Plant-derived essential oils (EO) may alleviate these negative effects by improving the efficiency of rumen fermentation in cows fed reduced feed protein diets. The experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of lowering crude protein (CP) supply alone or in a combination with an EO product on feed intake, milk production and composition, rumen fermentation, total tract digestibility and N utilization in dairy cows. Twenty-one Holstein cows were used in a replicated 3 × 3 Latin square design experiment. Each period consisted of 14 days for adaptation and 14 days for data collection and sampling. Cows were randomly assigned to one of three experimental diets: a 165 g/kg CP diet (control), a 155 g/kg CP diet (LCP) and LCP supplemented with 35 g/day per cow EO (LCPEO). The dry matter (DM) intake was decreased by LCP and LCPEO compared with the control; there was no effect of EO on DM intake. Milk yield and composition and feed efficiency were similar among treatments. Ruminal pH, lactate, ammonia and volatile fatty acids concentrations were not affected by treatment, except increased valerate concentration by LCPEO compared with LCP. The supplementation of EO tended to decrease protozoal counts. The LCP and LCPEO increased total tract digestibility of DM and organic matter and decreased CP digestibility compared with the control. Supplementation with EO did not affect total tract digestibility of dietary nutrients compared with the control or LCP. The LCP and LCPEO decreased urinary and fecal N excretions and increased milk N efficiency; nitrogen losses were not affected by EO. In this study, lowering dietary CP by 10 g/kg decreased urinary and fecal N excretion without affecting productivity. The supplementation of EO to LCP had only minor effects on rumen fermentation and did not affect productivity, digestibility and N excretion in lactating dairy cows.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology