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Nitrogen recycling and feed efficiency of cattle fed protein-restricted diets
journal contributionposted on 02.12.2020, 00:00 by LFP Silva, RM Dixon, Diogo Fleury Azevedo CostaDiogo Fleury Azevedo Costa
The ability of cattle to grow and reproduce when ingesting low-protein diets is a crucial attribute for productive beef cattle systems in the seasonally dry tropics and subtropics. Nitrogen (N) recycling to the rumen is an important and known physiological mechanism allowing ruminants to efficiently grow in low-protein diets, but is usually disregarded in the nutritional models. This review discusses the role and magnitude of N recycling to provide additional N as microbial substrate in the rumen and in determining the efficiency of ruminants ingesting low-protein diets, to better understand the major factors regulating N recycling to the rumen. In addition to a review of the literature, study-adjusted regressions were used to evaluate various aspects of crude protein (CP) intake and availability, N recycling and excretion. There is large variation in N excretion and N-use efficiency among diets and among individuals, illustrating the opportunity for improvement in overall efficiency of cattle production. These data indicated that N recycling to the entire gastrointestinal tract supplies from half to twice as much N available for microbial growth as does the diet. Addition of rumen-degradable protein can increase rumen efficiency in using the available energy, as, conversely, the addition of fermentable energy can increase rumen efficiency in using the available CP. The present review has demonstrated that both are possible because of greater N recycling. Also, the importance of preserving the available N for determining individual variation in feed efficiency and the implications for selection are discussed. Nitrogen recycling can be controlled at both the epithelial wall of compartments of the gastrointestinal tract and at the liver, where ureagenesis occurs. Addition of fermentable energy can increase N recycling to the rumen and to post-ruminal tract by acting at both sites, and the mechanisms for this are discussed in the text. Although the effect of altering CP concentration in the diet has been substantially investigated, other factors potentially modulating N recycling, such as total fermentable energy, sources of protein and energy, hormonal modulation, and genetic variance, remain poorly understood. The selection of more efficient animals and development of diets with a lower environmental impact inescapably means further elucidation of the N-recycling mechanism. © 2019 CSIRO.