How can the beef and dairy industries maximise their potential?Published Friday, 9th July 2021
The beef and dairy industries are facing multiple challenges – including increasing levels of sustainability and meeting changing consumer needs and wants – as they look to maintain their important role in global food production. We want to help dairy and beef farmers and animal nutritionists to maximise their potential using feed intelligence. As part of that process, we’re sharing tips on maximising productivity through feed additives, in this case NitroShure™.
How do I reduce cattle feed input costs and improve milk production rates?
In an era of lower milk prices and escalating input costs, success depends on efficiency. Ruminants are models of efficiency when it comes to the ability to convert fibrous feeds, low-quality protein and non-protein-nitrogen into valuable nutrients, i.e. microbial protein and energy in the form of volatile fatty acids (VFAs). Microbial protein contributes about one-half to two-thirds of the amino acids absorbed by ruminants and has a nearly perfect amino acid profile – similar to that which is found in milk and meat products.
VFAs, the result of carbohydrate fermentation, provide approximately 70% of the total energy requirement for ruminants. The primary VFAs (acetate, propionate, and butyrate) are used by the microorganisms for reproduction and growth, with the balance of the production being used by the ruminant itself. Improving carbohydrate digestibility increases energy available for milk production.
Maximizing rumen efficiency and the output of microbial protein and VFAs is the most significant factor impacting feed input costs and milk production. Rumen efficiency is influenced by many factors; carbohydrate type and nitrogen availability being highly important.
Why is balancing energy and nitrogen in cattle feed crucial?
For rumen bacteria to grow efficiently, and effectively digest fibre and carbohydrates, they must have a good balance of both energy and nitrogen. In other words, both energy and nitrogen must be available at similar times to maximize rumen fermentation. When this occurs, bacteria can capture nitrogen and synthesize microbial protein. More bacteria mean better digestibility of fibre, more energy, and more high-quality microbial protein. The result is better performance by the cow, increased milk yield and more milk components.
Sources of energy and protein are digested in the rumen at different rates. Some are fast, some are slow, and some are intermediate. Fast sources of protein can be effectively utilized if there is a corresponding and balanced source of rapidly fermentable energy. Conversely, when nitrogen is released more slowly there needs to be a corresponding source of slower fermenting energy to efficiently utilize that nitrogen. When protein and energy are not in balance microbial growth, nutrient digestibility and performance can be adversely affected.
For example, when feeding high levels of unprotected urea, rumen ammonia nitrogen levels will rise very quickly. While bacteria utilizing rapidly fermentable energy sources such as sugars and fast degrading starches can capture some of this nitrogen, much of it will be absorbed from the rumen into the blood. The result is lost energy due to detoxification and lost nitrogen via MUN and excretion in urine. In addition, nitrogen levels rapidly decrease in the rumen, which may lead to inadequate nitrogen levels to maintain optimum bacterial growth later in the fermentation process.
Feeding high levels of vegetable proteins can also result in the energy-nitrogen ratio becoming unbalanced. Diets high in non-structural carbohydrates (e.g., sugars and starches) have resulted in lower rumen nitrogen levels when peptide levels (vegetable proteins supply peptides) become too high (Jones et al., 1998.) Maeng et al., (1976) observed that bacterial growth in vitro increased substantially when amino acids replaced 25% of urea nitrogen but as higher amounts were replaced bacterial growth declined.
Feeding 45 to 90 g of NitroShure™ Precision Release Nitrogen in diets improves energy-nitrogen balance. A slower release of urea-nitrogen by NitroShure™ compared to unprotected urea reduces ammonia spikes post-feeding and provides a more consistent supply of ammonia needed for bacterial growth. By providing a more sustained availability of ammonia nitrogen, NitroShure™ helps ensure that bacteria will have available nitrogen for optimizing bacterial growth even when feeding vegetable protein-based diets.
Why is the release time of the urea into the rumen important?
Unprotected urea is almost instantly soluble in the rumen. Because there is significant urease (an enzyme that hydrolyzes urea to ammonia) in the rumen, the addition of urea to diets can lead to rapid spikes in rumen ammonia nitrogen levels.
When ammonia levels become too high, too fast, rumen bacteria cannot capture the nitrogen for conversion to high quality microbial protein and it is absorbed into the bloodstream. The liver must then detoxify the ammonia by converting it back to urea which takes energy that could otherwise be used for milk production. Some of the urea may recycle back to the rumen; however, a significant amount of it is excreted in milk as milk urea nitrogen (MUN) or in the urine.
How can I improve microbial protein synthesis?
The role of nitrogen in microbial protein synthesis is well known but underestimated.
NitroShure™ Precision Release Nitrogen uses Balchem’s proprietary encapsulation technology to provide a more consistent nitrogen supply to rumen microbes, maximizing microbial protein yield, improving dry matter digestibility and increasing carbohydrate digestibility while providing greater flexibility in formulating high performance dairy rations.
- Improve Digestible Protein Yield and Quality – Replace low-quality proteins with NitroShure™. Balancing nitrogen release with available carbohydrates in the rumen leads to improvements in high-quality, microbial protein production.
- Improve Fibre Digestion and Dry Matter Utilization – Microbial mass and activity are increased when available carbohydrates and nitrogen are balanced, resulting in greater dry matter utilization, fibre digestion and VFA production.
- Create Ration Space – Replace less dense sources of protein with NitroShure™ to create approximately two pounds of dry matter space in the ration. The additional space can be used to increase dietary levels of forage, non-fibre carbohydrate or other key ration ingredients to improve milk and milk component production.
- Lower Ration Costs – Replace more expensive protein sources with NitroShure™ to reduce purchased feed costs.
What is nitrogen’s role in maximizing rumen efficiency in cattle?
Increasing microbial growth and efficiency allows the cow to get the most nutrition out of her ration. When you maximize the microbial population, you increase the amount and quality of the protein available to the cow. At the same time, carbohydrate digestion is improved, providing more energy. By optimizing rumen microbial protein synthesis, you can reduce nutrient input costs and improve cow performance.
- When nitrogen and carbohydrate availability are in balance and accessible to rumen microbes, the overall microbial population and biomass increases.
- To achieve this “balanced state” you must include a variety of feedstuffs, ranging from fast to slow degradation rates of dietary protein and carbohydrate. Synchronizing nitrogen with carbohydrate availability is essential for optimized microbial yield.
- Time Availability High-quality nitrogen sources are essential for the most efficient rumen function. NitroShure™ Precision Release Nitrogen replaces other high cost or low-quality protein sources and combines the benefits of urea with Balchem’s precision release technology to better balance nitrogen with carbohydrate availability.
- Maximizing the bacterial biomass is essential for optimizing carbohydrate digestion; offering greater break-down and utilization of dietary dry matter. Dietary carbohydrates are fermented to produce VFAs like propionate, acetate and butyrate. Propionate is of particular importance because it is the precursor for glucose production in the liver (via gluconeogenesis).
- Rumen bacterial protein is the highest quality protein available to the cow; the amino acid composition is similar to that of milk and very close to what the mammary gland requires for milk and milk protein synthesis.
How do feeding practices impact the rumen?
Studies show that rumen ammonia levels vary significantly based on diet and feeding frequency, peaking shortly after feeding then dropping rapidly until the next feeding. Rumen ammonia levels will often drop below levels needed to maintain maximum bacterial growth and DM digestibility for several hours during the day.
Balancing nitrogen and carbohydrate availability can increase rumen microbial populations and fermentation efficiency, improving fibre and carbohydrate digestibility and microbial protein yield.
Are all rumen nitrogen sources the same?
When the rate of degradation of carbohydrates to nitrogen in the rumen is right, microbial protein production is maximized. Several nitrogen sources exist but they are not all equal. Some release nitrogen in a timelier fashion than others.
- Raw urea releases nitrogen too quickly.
Microbes in the rumen use available carbohydrates and rumen ammonia to synthesize microbial protein. This can be done efficiently as long as both carbohydrate and ammonia are available at the same time. The disadvantage of raw urea is that it is released very rapidly elevating rumen ammonia levels rapidly. As ammonia levels increase beyond the point where there is enough readily available carbohydrate for microbes to capture it and convert it to microbial protein the excess ammonia is absorbed and much of it is excreted as urinary nitrogen or MUN.
- Soybean meal releases nitrogen too slowly.
Soybean meal has a much slower release pattern. In fact it is too slow to provide adequate ammonia in the presence of rapidly fermented carbohydrate sources, such as ground corn and barley, to optimize microbial protein production. Having a release pattern similar to soybean meal in this situation is not beneficial.
- Not all feed additive nitrogen sources have optimal release curves.
Some release patterns are actually slower than that of soybean meal at later times. Considering that approximately 30% of soybean protein bypasses digestion in the rumen, the release pattern would suggest that a significant portion of the urea completely escapes rumen fermentation. If released post-ruminally, this urea (ammonia) would contribute directly to increases in urinary nitrogen excretion and MUN.
- Release pattern for NitroShure™
The release pattern for NitroShure™ Precision Release Nitrogen is well timed: slower than urea, but faster than soybean meal. The NitroShure™ advantages are:
- Timely nitrogen availability.
Ammonia release is better synchronized with the carbohydrate fermentation, increasing the capture of nitrogen as microbial protein.
- More complete release of urea nitrogen in the rumen.
Nitrogen must be available in the rumen for the synthesis of microbial protein.
Precision Release Nitrogen is urea protected by Balchem’s proprietary encapsulation technology. Conceptually it is much like an M&M. Encapsulation controls the rate at which the urea is released in the rumen thus providing a more consistent supply of rumen nitrogen for use by bacteria.
What are the benefits of adding NitroShure™ to cattle feed?
Studies show that NitroShure™ Precision Release Nitrogen is proven to help fill the nitrogen availability gap between fast release urea and the slower nitrogen release of traditional protein sources to better synchronize nitrogen and carbohydrate availability in the rumen.
Balancing nitrogen and carbohydrate availability can increase rumen microbial populations and fermentation efficiency, improving fibre and carbohydrate digestibility and microbial protein yield. Research studies show that improvements in rumen fermentation can lead to increases in milk yield and component production.
NitroShure™ is a valuable tool for helping producers and nutritionists reduce ration costs while increasing the amount of high-quality protein available to the cow.
- Improve Digestible Protein Yield and Quality – Replace low-quality proteins with NitroShure™. Synchronizing nitrogen release with available carbohydrates in the rumen leads to improvements in high-quality, microbial protein production.
- Improve Fibre Digestion and Dry Matter Utilization – Microbial mass and activity is increased when available carbohydrate and nitrogen is balanced, resulting in greater dry matter utilization, fibre digestion and VFA production.
- Create Ration Space – Replace less dense sources of protein with NitroShure™ to create approximately 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of dry matter space in the diet. The additional space can be used to increase dietary levels of forage, non-fibre carbohydrate or other key ration ingredients to improve milk and milk component production.
- Lower Ration Costs – Replace more expensive protein sources with NitroShure™ to reduce purchased feed costs.
Improved digestion gives you more from less
According to research conducted by Garrett et al., replacing a portion of soybean meal in feed with a blend of NitroShure™, corn and molasses delivered an equivalent amount of protein by generating more microbial mass, representing 286 grams/day more microbial protein in a cow eating 22.5 kg dry matter intake.
NitroShure™ also increased digestion of dry matter, neutral detergent fibre and total carbohydrate, leading to more total energy available to the cow because of improved rumen microbial fermentation.
In a 2010 study by Highstreet et al., California State University, feeding NitroShure™ versus urea improved overall lactation performance.
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