Enteric methane emission, diet digestibility and nitrogen excretion from beef heifers fed sainfoin or alfalfa.

Chung, Y.-H., McGeough, E.J., Acharya, S.N., McAllister, T.A., McGinn, S.M., Harstad, O.M., and Beauchemin, K.A. (2013). "Enteric methane emission, diet digestibility and nitrogen excretion from beef heifers fed sainfoin or alfalfa.", Journal of Animal Science, 91(10), pp. 4861-4874. doi : 10.2527/jas.2013-6498  Access to full text

Abstract

Effects of plant-bound condensed tannin (CT)-containing sainfoin vs. CT-free alfalfa (or low-CT alfalfa-sainfoin mixture), plant stage of maturity, and their interaction on enteric methane (CH4) emissions, diet digestibility, and N excretion were studied, using 8 ruminally cannulated beef heifers in 2 sequential short-term experiments (Exp. 1 and 2). In Exp. 1, first growth legumes were harvested daily and offered fresh to heifers. Heifers were assigned to 100% sainfoin or 80% alfalfa:20% sainfoin (as-fed basis). Responses were measured at early (late vegetative to early bud; stage 2 to 3) and late (early flower; stage 5) stage of maturity. In Exp. 2, the same legumes were harvested from second growth (late bud; stage 4) and offered to heifers as hay; 100% sainfoin or 100% alfalfa. In both experiments, heifers were fed once daily at 1× maintenance. When fed as fresh forage (Exp. 1), sainfoin, compared with the alfalfa-sainfoin blend, had greater digestibility of OM (74.7 vs. 70.9%; P = 0.02), yet tended to have lower CP digestibility (73.2 vs. 77.1%; P = 0.059). There was no difference between fresh legumes for CH4 emissions [25.9 g/kg DMI ± 4.02 SE; 8.5% of gross energy intake (GEI) ± 1.26 SE; or 36.8 g/kg digested OM ± 1.75 SE]. The fresh legumes were more digestible at early, rather than at late, maturity and, consequently, enteric CH4 (27.4 vs. 24.4 g/kg DMI; P < 0.004; 8.9 vs. 8.1% GEI; P < 0.008) was greater at early, rather than at later, growth. When fed as hay (Exp. 2), sainfoin, compared with alfalfa, had greater digestibility of OM (60.5 vs. 50.3%; P = 0.007), lower digestibility of CP (64.2 vs. 68.8%; P = 0.004), yet there was no difference between the legume hays for CH4 emissions (22.4 g/kg DMI ± 1.29 SD and 7.1% GEI ± 0.40 SD). However, on the basis of OM digested, CH4 emissions were lower for sainfoin than alfalfa hay (44.3 vs. 59.0 g/kg; P = 0.008). Percentage of total N excretion in urine was less for sainfoin compared with alfalfa, both for fresh legumes in Exp. 1 (74 vs. 78%; P = 0.017) or hay in Exp. 2 (64 vs. 72%; P < 0.001), and increasing maturity lowered urinary N excretion. In conclusion, feeding CT-containing sainfoin partially shifted N excretion from urine to feces, but it had little impact on enteric CH4 emissions from beef cattle fed at maintenance as compared with feeding either 80% alfalfa:20% sainfoin (fresh forages) or 100% alfalfa (hay). Feeding fresh legumes harvested between the late vegetative to early bud stage, compared with harvested at the early flower stage, increased N excreted in urine as well as enteric CH4 emissions from beef cattle fed at maintenance.

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