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Potential use of Acacia mearnsii condensed tannins to reduce methane emissions and nitrogen excretion from grazing dairy cows

Grainger, C., Clarke, T., Auldist, M.J., Beauchemin, K.A., McGinn, S.M., Waghorn, G.C., Eckard, R.J. (2009). Potential use of Acacia mearnsii condensed tannins to reduce methane emissions and nitrogen excretion from grazing dairy cows, 89(2), 241-251. http://dx.doi.org/10.4141/CJAS08110

Abstract

We measured the effect of condensed tannins (CT) extracted from the bark of the Black Wattle tree (Acacia mearnsii) on the milk production, methane emissions, nitrogen (N) balance and energy partitioning of lactating dairy cattle. Sixty lactating cows, approximately 32 d in milk grazing ryegrass pasture supplemented with 5 kg d-1 cracked triticale grain, were allocated to three treatments: Control, Tannin 1 (163 g CT d-1) or Tannin 2 (326 g CT d-1 initially, reduced to 244 g d-1 CT by day 17). Cows were dosed twice daily after milking for 5 wk with the powdered CT extract (mixed 1:1 with water). Low and high CT supplementation reduced (PB0.05) methane emissions by 14 and 29%, respectively (about 10and 22% on an estimated dry matter intake basis). However, milk production was also reduced by the CT (P<0.05), especially at the high dose rate. Milk yields were 33.0, 31.8 and 29.8 kg cow-1 d-1. Tannin 2 also caused a 19% decline in fat yield and a 7% decline in protein yield, but protein and lactose contents of milk were not affected by CT supplementation. After the initial 5-wk period, five cows representative of each treatment group were moved to metabolism facilities to determine effects of CT on energy digestion and N balance over 6 d. The energy digestibility was reduced (P<0.05) from 76.9 (Control) to 70.9 (Tannin 1) and 66.0% (Tannin 2) and the percentage of feed N lost to urine was reduced (P<0.05) from 39 to 26% and 22% for the respective treatments. The CT also caused a reduction (P<0.05) in intake during the metabolism study, effectively increasing CT as a percentage of intake. Although CT can be used to reduce methane and urinary N losses from cows fed pastures with a high crude protein (CP) concentration, reduced milk yield in this study suggested the dietary concentration was too high. If CT are to be considered as a means for lowering methane emissions further research is needed to define impacts of lower doses of A. mearnsii CT on methane production and cow productivity. Dairy producers will be reluctant to adopt feeding practices that compromise profitability.

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