A Tier 3 Method for Enteric Methane in Dairy Cows Applied for Fecal N Digestibility in the Ammonia Inventory

A. Bannink*, J.W. Spek, J. Dijkstra, L.B. Sebek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The current inventory of N emission from cow excreta relies on fecal N digestibility data in Dutch feeding tables, assuming additivity of dietary ingredients to obtain diet values (CVB model). Alternatively, fecal N digestibility can be estimated by a dynamic, mechanistic model of digestion in the gastrointestinal tract, currently used as Tier 3 for enteric methane prediction in the Netherlands (Tier 3 model). Estimates of in situ rumen degradation characteristics for starch, neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and crude protein used as an input for the Tier 3 model were based on Dutch feeding tables (the protein evaluation system). Both methods were evaluated on independent dataset on fecal N digestibility that was constructed from peer-reviewed papers on N balance data for dairy cows published since 1999 (54 trials, 242 treatment means). Results indicate that observed apparent fecal N digestibility (67.0 ± 6.77%) was systematically over-predicted in particular by the CVB model (73.8 ± 4.35%) compared to the Tier 3 model (69.8 ± 4.52%). For the dataset including only observations from Dutch trials the observed fecal N digestibility (70.4 ± 7.33%) was also systematically over-predicted by the CVB model (76.4 ± 5.27%) but not by the Tier 3 model (69.7 ± 5.81%). Mixed model analysis with study as random factor indicated the slope of the regression between observed and predicted fecal N digestibility to be smaller than 1, in particular for the CVB model (CVB model slope varied between 0.405 and 0.560 and Tier 3 model slope between 0.418 and 0.657). The over-prediction by the CVB model with 6–7%-units of digestibility will lead to an over-predicted ammoniacal N excretion (urinary N) in the ammonia inventory, and biased estimation of N mitigating potential of nutritional measures. The present study demonstrates the benefit of using the Tier 3 model to predict the average level of apparent fecal N digestibility compared to the CVB model. The general estimates of in situ rumen degradation characteristics for starch, NDF and crude protein used as input for the Tier 3 model seemed applicable for the Dutch trials but less so for the non-Dutch trials.
Original languageEnglish
Article number66
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2018


  • models
  • Tier 3
  • dairy cows
  • nitrogen digestibility
  • Nitrogen excretion


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