Effect of diet manipulation in dairy cow N balance and nitrogen oxides emissions from grasslands in northern Spain

H. Arriaga, G. Salcedo, S. Calsamiglia, P. Merino

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Dietary modifications in dairy cattle have been reported as a useful strategy to alter the composition of manure. Many reports have been published on how changes in dietary crude protein content and forage-to-concentrate ratio reduces animal nitrogen (N) excretion, but little information exists about the effect of diet modification on nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO) emission when the subsequent slurry is applied on grassland. Two diets differing in forage:concentrate ratio (high forage or HF diet, 75:25; low forage or LF diet, 55:45) were tested to detect the improvement of N use efficiency in milk and the reduction of urinary and fecal N excretion. Triticale silage and barley grain were used as the main forage and concentrate sources in the diets. The subsequent slurries were characterized for N and ammonium-N content (NH4+-N) and applied on grassland in order to study total and pattern of emission of N2O and NO. The HF diet reduced the voluntary dry matter intake of the cows, N intake and urinary and fecal N excretion. However, the reduction of N intake did not improve the N use efficiency in milk (NUE) (21.0%) and did not reduce N excretion per unit of milk produced (15 g N l-1) due to the lower milk yield. Slurries were similar in N content but differed in NH4+ content, being lower in HF. Therefore, different slurry amounts were needed to be applied on grassland to reach the correct fertilisation rate (120 kg NH4+-N ha-1). Total emissions of N2O (5.8 and 5.0 kg N2O-N ha-1) and NO (507.2 and 568.6 g NO-N ha-1), and the pattern of emissions were not affected by dietary treatments. When fertilisation management depends on the collected volume to empty the slurry pit, higher N2O and NO emissions per kg of slurry could be expected from LF slurry. Nevertheless, if slurry is applied following recommendation rates, N2O and NO emission per unit of milk produced might be slightly lower from LF slurry. Grass yield (1.5 t dry matter ha-1) and N uptake (50 kg N ha-1) did not vary due to the applications of different slurries, and was attributed to low rainfalls. The correct management of the slurries on grasslands may justify an adequate nutritional strategy of dairy herds from an environmental and productive point of view. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-139
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Crude protein
  • Dairy nutrition
  • Forage:concentrate ratio
  • Grassland
  • Nitric oxide
  • Nitrous oxide


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