British Journal of Nutrition

General Nutrition

The maximum capacity of the liver of the adult dairy cow to metabolize ammonia

H. W. Symondsa1, Denise L. Mathera1 and K. A. Collisa1 p1

a1 Agricultural Research Council, Institute for Research on Animal Diseases, Compton, Newbury, Berkshire RG16 0NN


1. Three adult dairy cows were fitted with cannulas in a mesenteric, portal, hepatic and jugular vein and a carotid artery. They received infusions of step-wise increasing amounts of ammonia as ammonium acetate via a mesenteric vein until NH3 intoxication occurred. Sodium acetate was used in control infusions. The maximum rate of uptake of NH3 by the liver and the concentrations of glucose, urea, lactate, acetate and bilirubin in blood were measured.

2. During the infusions of ammonium acetate the liver extracted almost all the NH3 present in the portal vein until an infusion rate of approximately 15·0 mmol/min was reached. The maximum capacity of the liver to remove NH3 during its first pass was on average 1·84 mmol/min per kg wet weight. The cows became intoxicated when arterial plasma ammonia concentrations reached 0·8 mmol/1. Concentrations of NH3 in jugular venous blood were between 66 and 74% of those in the carotid.

(Received April 21 1980)

(Accepted June 05 1981)


p1 Alfa-Laval, Cwmbran, Dyffed.