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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Urea metabolism in beef steers fed tall fescue, orchardgrass, or gamagrass hays
Year: 2009
Author(s): Huntington, G. B., Magee, K., Matthews, A., Poore, M., Burns, J.
Source Title: Journal of Animal Science
Source Type: Journal
pages: 1346-1353
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Two experiments were conducted to assess effects of endophyte treatments (Exp. 1), forage species (Exp. 2), and supplementation (Exp. 2) on urea production, excretion, and recycling in beef steers. Infusion of N-15,N-15-urea and enrichment of urea in urine samples were used to calculate urea-N entry and recycling to the gut. Acceptably stable enrichment of N-15-urea in urine was obtained after 50 h of intrajugular infusion of N-15,N-15-urea, indicating that valid data on urea metabolism can be obtained from steers fed forages twice daily. After adjustment by covariance for differences in N intake among treatments in Exp. 1, steers fed endophyte-infected tall fescue had less (P < 0.10) urea-N entry, recycling to the gut, and return of recycled urea-N to the ornithine cycle than those fed endophyte-free or novel endophyte-infected tall fescue. However, urea-N urinary excretion or return to the gut was similar among endophyte treatments when expressed as a proportion of urea-N entry. Urea-N entry and return to the gut in Exp. 2 was similar in steers fed gamagrass or orchardgrass hay after adjustment by covariance for differences in N intake. Less (P < 0.01) urinary excretion, expressed as grams per day or as a proportion of urea-N entry, with gamagrass than with orchardgrass was associated with faster in vitro NDF-N digestion with gamagrass. Supplementation of gamagrass or orchardgrass with 1.76 kg/d of readily fermentable fiber and starch decreased urea entry (P < 0.06) and urinary excretion of urea (P < 0.01). Interactions between hay source and supplement reflected a greater response to supplementation for steers fed orchardgrass than for those fed gamagrass. After adjustment for differences among treatments in N supply, results of both experiments support the concept of improved N use in response to increased carbohydrate fermentability in the rumen, due either to inherent differences in forage fiber or to supplementation with readily fermentable carbohydrate (starch or fiber). Closer coordination of ruminal fermentation of carbohydrate and N sources provided greater and more efficient capture of dietary N as tissue protein in forage-fed steers.