Short communication: Analytical method and amount of preservative added to milk samples may alter milk urea nitrogen measurements

Holley L. Weeks, Alexander N. Hristov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Milk urea N (MUN) is used by dairy nutritionists and producers to monitor dietary protein intake and is indicative of N utilization in lactating dairy cows. Two experiments were conducted to explore discrepancies in MUN results provided by 3 milk processing laboratories using different methods. An additional experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol (bronopol) on MUN analysis. In experiment 1, 10 replicates of bulk tank milk samples, collected from the Pennsylvania State University's Dairy Center over 5 consecutive days, were sent to 3 milk processing laboratories in Pennsylvania. Average MUN differed between laboratory A (14.9 ± 0.40 mg/dL; analyzed on MilkoScan 4000; Foss, Hillerød, Denmark), laboratory B (6.5 ± 0.17 mg/dL; MilkoScan FT + 6000), and laboratory C (7.4 ± 0.36 mg/dL; MilkoScan 6000). In experiment 2, milk samples were spiked with urea at 0 (7.3 to 15.0 mg/dL, depending on the laboratory analyzing the samples), 17.2, 34.2, and 51.5 mg/dL of milk. Two 35-mL samples from each urea level were sent to the 3 laboratories used in experiment 1. Average analyzed MUN was greater than predicted (calculated for each laboratory based on the control; 0 mg of added urea): for laboratory A (23.2 vs. 21.0 mg/dL), laboratory B (18.0 vs. 13.3 mg/dL), and laboratory C (20.6 vs. 15.2 mg/dL). In experiment 3, replicated milk samples were preserved with 0 to 1.35 mg of bronopol/mL of milk and submitted to one milk processing laboratory that analyzed MUN using 2 different methods. Milk samples with increasing amounts of bronopol ranged in MUN concentration from 7.7 to 11.9 mg/dL and from 9.0 to 9.3 mg/dL when analyzed on MilkoScan 4000 or CL 10 (EuroChem, Moscow, Russia), respectively. In conclusion, measured MUN concentrations varied due to analytical procedure used by milk processing laboratories and were affected by the amount of bronopol used to preserve milk sample, when milk was analyzed using a mid-infrared analyzer. Thus, it is important to maintain consistency in milk sample preservation and analysis to ensure precision of MUN results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1502-1506
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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