The effect of supplemental energy, nitrogen, and protein on feed intake, digestibility, and nitrogen flux across the gut and liver in sheep fed low-quality forage

Ferrell, C.L.; Kreikemeier, K.K.; Freetly, H.C.

Journal of Animal Science 77(12): 3353-3364


ISSN/ISBN: 0021-8812
PMID: 10641884
DOI: 10.2527/1999.77123353x
Accession: 068728067

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Our objective was to determine the impact of supplemental energy, N, and protein on feed intake and N metabolism in sheep fed low-quality forage. Six Texel x Dorset wethers (16 mo, 63+/-3.1 kg) fitted with mesenteric, portal, and hepatic venous catheters were used in a Latin square design with five sampling periods. Lambs were fed chopped bromegrass hay (4.3% CP) to appetite, and a mineral mixture was given. Treatments were 1) control (no supplement), 2) energy (cornstarch, molasses, and soybean oil), 3) energy plus urea, 4) energy plus soybean meal (SBM), and 5) energy plus ruminally undegraded protein (RUP; 50:50 mixture of blood and feather meals). Supplements were fed once daily (.3% BW). Forage DMI did not differ (P = .13), but intake of total DM, N, and energy differed (P<.01) among treatments. Apparent digestibilities of DM, OM, and energy were less (P<.01) for control than for other treatments. Apparent N digestibility was least for control and energy and greatest for urea treatments (P<.05). As a result, digested DM, OM, and energy ranked from least to greatest were control, energy, urea, SBM, and RUP, respectively. Apparently digested N was 2.44, 2.24, 11.39, 9.80, and 11.25 g/d for control, energy, urea, SBM, and RUP (P<.01; SE = .10). Hour of sampling x treatment was a significant source of variation for blood concentrations of ammonia N and urea N, net ammonia N release from portal-drained viscera (PDV) and liver, and urea N release from splanchnic tissues. These results were primarily because patterns through time for the urea treatment differed from the other treatments. Net PDV release of alpha-amino N did not differ (P>.05) between control and energy treatments. Values for those treatments were about one-half of values for urea, SBM, and RUP treatments, which did not differ (P>.05). Hepatic net uptake (negative release) of alpha-amino N for control was 53% of values for the other treatments, which did not differ (P>.05). Net release of alpha-amino N from splanchnic tissues did not differ among treatments (P = .34) and did not differ from zero. The data indicate that arterial alpha-amino N concentration, hepatic alpha-amino N uptake, PDV release and hepatic uptake of ammonia N, and hepatic release of urea N were greater in energy than in control treatments. We also found that hepatic uptake of alpha-amino N was 187% of PDV release in energy-supplemented lambs. These results suggest that energy supplementation of a protein-limiting diet stimulated mobilization of body protein.