a1 Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of Aarhus, DK-8830 Tjele, Denmark
Three ruminally cannulated and multicatheterised lactating dairy cows were used to investigate the effect of different supplement strategies to fresh clover grass on urea and short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) metabolism in a zero-grazing experiment with 24-h blood and ruminal samplings. Fresh clover grass was cut every morning and offered from 0800 to 1500 h. Maize silage was fed at 1530 h. The three treatments, arranged in a Latin square, differed by timing of feeding rolled barley and soya-bean hulls relative to fresh clover grass. All diets had the same overall composition. Treatments were soya-bean hulls fed at 0700 h and barley fed at 1530 h (SAM), barley fed at 0700 h and soya-bean hulls fed at 1530 h (BAM), and both soya-bean hulls and barley fed at 1530 h (SBPM). The grass had an unexpectedly low content of crude protein (12.7%) and the cows were severely undersupplied with rumen degradable protein. The treatment effects were numerically small; greater arterial ammonia concentration, net portal flux of ammonia and net hepatic flux of urea during part of the day were observed when no supplementary carbohydrate was fed before grass feeding. A marked diurnal variation in ruminal fermentation was observed and grass feeding increased ruminal concentrations of propionate and butyrate. The net portal fluxes of propionate, butyrate, isovalerate and valerate as well as the net hepatic uptake of propionate, butyrate, valerate and caproate increased after feeding at 0700 h. The hepatic extraction of butyrate showed a relatively large depression with grass feeding with nadir at 1200 to 1330 h. The increased net portal absorption and the decreased hepatic extraction resulted in an approximately six-fold increase in the arterial blood concentration of butyrate. The gut entry rate of urea accounted for 70 ± 10% of the net hepatic production of urea. Saliva contributed to 14% of the total amount of urea recycled to the gut. Urea recycling to the gut was equivalent to 58% of the dietary nitrogen intake. Despite the severe undersupply of rumen degradable protein, the portal-drained viscera did not extract more than 4.3% of the urea supplied with arterial blood. This value is in line with the literature values for cows fed diets only moderately deficient in rumen degradable protein and indicates that cows maximise urea transfer across gut epithelia even when the diet is moderately deficient in rumen degradable protein.
(Received November 23 2006)
(Accepted November 21 2007)