• Effects of fertiliser nitrogen rate to spring grass on apparent digestibility, nitrogen balance, ruminal fermentation and microbial nitrogen production in beef cattle and in vitro rumen fermentation and methane output

      O'Connor, Alan; Moloney, Aidan P; O'Kiely, Padraig; Boland, T. M.; McGee, Mark; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/S/105 (Elsevier, 2019-06-06)
      The effects of two fertiliser nitrogen (N) application rates - 15 (LN) or 80 (HN) kg N/ha - to Lolium perenne dominant swards in spring, on grass dry matter (DM) intake, digestion, rumen fermentation, microbial N production and N-balance in beef cattle, and in vitro fermentation and methane production were studied. Sixteen Charolais steers with a mean live weight (s.d.) of 475 (18.4) kg, were used in a completely randomised block design experiment and offered zero-grazed grass harvested 21-d post N application. The same grass was incubated in an eight-vessel RUSITEC in a completely randomised block design experiment. The HN treatment had a 540 kg/ha higher grass DM yield, and a 20 g/kg DM higher crude protein (CP) concentration compared to LN. There was no difference (P > 0.05) in DM intake, or in vivo DM, organic matter (OM) and N digestibility between treatments. Rumen fermentation variables pH, lactic acid, ammonia (NH3) and total volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentration were similar (P > 0.05) for both treatments. Nitrogen intake was 19 g/d higher (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. Total and urine N loss was 16 and 14 g/d greater (P < 0.05), respectively, for HN compared to LN, but faecal N loss did not differ (P > 0.05) between treatments. The quantity of N retained and N-use efficiency did not differ (P > 0.05) between LN and HN. Plasma urea concentration was 1 mmol/L greater (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. Estimated microbial N production was greater (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. In vitro NH3 concentrations were higher (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN, whereas in vitro rumen pH, lactic acid and VFA concentrations and molar proportions did not differ (P > 0.05) between HN and LN. In vitro methane and total gas output were not different (P > 0.05) between treatments. Reducing fertiliser N application rate to grass in spring reduced total and urinary N excretion, which has environmental benefits, with no effects on in vitro methane output.