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

Chung, Y.H., Mc Geough, E.J., Acharya, S., McAllister, T.A., McGinn, S.M., Harstad, O.M., Beauchemin, K.A. (2013). Enteric methane emission, diet digestibility and nitrogen excretion from beef heifers fed sainfoin or alfalfa., 91(10), 4861-4874.


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 shortterm 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. © 2013 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.

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