Differences between Holstein dairy cows in renal clearance rate of urea affect milk urea concentration and the relationship between milk urea and urinary nitrogen excretion

Müller, C.Beatrix.Maria.; Görs, S.; Derno, M.; Tuchscherer, A.; Wimmers, K.; Zeyner, A.; Kuhla, Börn.

Science of the Total Environment 2020: 143198


ISSN/ISBN: 0048-9697
PMID: 33162136
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143198
Accession: 071086421

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Urine and fecal excretions from cattle contribute to global nitrogen (N) emissions. The milk urea nitrogen (MUN) concentration in dairy cows is positively correlated with urinary urea N (UUN) emissions, and both decline with the reduction in crude protein intake. However, MUN concentration may differ between individual cows despite feeding the same ration. Thus, we hypothesized that due to differences in endogenous N utilization cows with high MUN concentration excrete more UUN than cows with a low MUN concentration. The objective of the present study was to elucidate N partitioning and urea metabolism in dairy cows with divergent MUN concentrations fed two planes of crude protein. Twenty Holstein dairy cows with high (HMU; n = 10) and low (LMU; n = 10) milk urea concentrations were fed two isocaloric diets with a low (LP) and normal (NP) crude protein level. Methane and ammonia emissions were recorded in respiration chambers. Feed intake, feces and urine excretions and milk yield were recorded for four days and subsamples were analyzed for total N and N-metabolites. A carbon-13 labeled urea bolus was administered intravenously followed by a series of plasma samplings. Total N and UUN excretions and ammonia emissions from excreta were lower on the LP diet, however, methane emissions, urinary N excretions and ammonia emissions were comparable between groups. Although plasma and salivary urea concentrations, urea pool size and urea turnover were higher, HMU cows had lower renal urea clearance rates. Additionally, HMU cows had lower renal clearance rates for creatinine, uric acid and creatine and excreted less uric acid (on the LP diet only) and creatine with urine. In conclusion, contrary to our hypothesis, HMU cows did not excrete more UUN than LMU cows. The lower urinary creatine excretion of HMU cows suggests that these animals have a lower environmental nitrogen footprint.