Effect of nitrogen fertilization rate and regrowth interval of grass herbage on methane emission of zero-grazing lactating dairy cows

D. Warner, S.C. Podesta, B. Hatew, G. Klop, H. van Laar, A. Bannink, J. Dijkstra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Dairy cattle farming in temperate regions often relies on grass herbage (GH)-based diets but the effect of several grass management options on enteric CH4 emission has not been fully investigated yet. We investigated the combined effect of N fertilization rate and length of regrowth period of GH (predominantly ryegrass) on CH4 emission from lactating dairy cows. In a randomized block design, 28 lactating Holstein-Friesian dairy cows received a basal diet of GH and compound feed [85:15; dry matter (DM) basis]. Treatments consisted of GH cut after 3 or 5 weeks of regrowth, after receiving either a low (20 kg of N/ha) or a high (90 kg of N/ha) fertilization rate after initial cut. Feed intake, digestibility, milk production and composition, N and energy balance, and CH4 emission were measured during a 5-d period in climate respiration chambers after an adaptation to the diet for 12 d. Cows were restricted-fed during measurements and mean DM intake was 15.0 ± 0.16 kg/d. Herbage crude protein content varied between 76 and 161 g/kg of DM, and sugar content between 186 and 303 g/kg of DM. Fat- and protein-corrected milk (FPCM) and feed digestibility increased with increased N fertilization rates and a shorter regrowth interval. Increasing the N fertilization rate increased daily CH4 emission per cow (+10%) and per unit of DM intake (+9%), tended to increase the fraction of gross energy intake emitted as CH4 (+7%), and (partly because of the low crude protein content for the low fertilized GH) only numerically reduced CH4 per unit of FPCM. The longer regrowth interval increased CH4 emission per unit of FPCM (+14%) compared with the shorter regrowth interval, but did not affect CH4 emission expressed in any other unit. With increasing N fertilization CH4 emission decreased per unit of digestible neutral detergent fiber intake (-13%) but not per unit of digestible organic matter intake. There was no interaction of the effect of N fertilization rate and regrowth interval on CH4 emission, but effects of N fertilization were generally most distinct with GH of 5 wk regrowth. The present results suggest that altering grass quality through an increase of N fertilization and a shorter regrowth interval can reduce CH4 emission in zero-grazing dairy cows, depending on the unit in which it is expressed. The larger amount of CH4 produced per day and cow with the more intensively managed GH is compensated by a higher feed digestibility and FPCM yield.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3383-3393
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • special topics-mitigation
  • oxide emissions
  • passage kinetics
  • milk-production
  • management
  • options
  • silage
  • cattle
  • supplementation
  • fermentation


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