Effects of dietary starch content and rate of fermentation on methane production in lactating dairy cows

B. Hatew*, S.C. Podesta, H. van Laar, W.F. Pellikaan, J.L. St-Pierre, J. Dijkstra, A. Bannink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of starch varying in rate of fermentation and level of inclusion in the diet in exchange for fiber on methane (CH4) production of dairy cows. Forty Holstein-Friesian lactating dairy cows of which 16 were rumen cannulated were grouped in 10 blocks of 4 cows each. Cows received diets consisting of 60% grass silage and 40% concentrate (dry matter basis). Cows within block were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 different diets composed of concentrates that varied in rate of starch fermentation [slowly (S) vs. rapidly (R) rumen fermentable; native vs. gelatinized corn grain] and level of starch (low vs. high; 270 vs. 530 g/kg of concentrate dry matter). Results of rumen in situ incubations confirmed that the fractional rate of degradation of starch was higher for R than S starch. Effective rumen degradability of organic matter was higher for high than low starch and also higher for R than S starch. Increased level of starch, but not starch fermentability, decreased dry matter intake and daily CH4 production. Milk yield (mean 24.0 ± 1.02 kg/d), milk fat content (mean 5.05 ± 0.16%), and milk protein content (mean 3.64 ± 0.05%) did not differ between diets. Methane expressed per kilogram of fat- and protein-corrected milk, per kilogram of dry matter intake, or as a fraction of gross energy intake did not differ between diets. Methane expressed per kilogram of estimated rumen-fermentable organic matter (eRFOM) was higher for S than R starch–based diets (47.4 vs. 42.6 g/kg of eRFOM) and for low than high starch–based diets (46.9 vs. 43.1 g/kg of eRFOM). Apparent total-tract digestibility of neutral detergent fiber and crude protein were not affected by diets, but starch digestibility was higher for diets based on R starch (97.2%) compared with S starch (95.5%). Both total volatile fatty acid concentration (109.2 vs. 97.5 mM) and propionate proportion (16.5 vs. 15.8 mol/100 mol) were higher for R starch– compared with S starch–based diets but unaffected by the level of starch. Total N excretion in feces plus urine and N retained were unaffected by dietary treatments, and similarly energy intake and output of energy in milk expressed per unit of metabolic body weight were not affected by treatments. In conclusion, an increased rate of starch fermentation and increased level of starch in the diet of dairy cattle reduced CH4 produced per unit of eRFOM but did not affect CH4 production per unit of feed dry matter intake or per unit of milk produced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-499
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • microbial protein-synthesis
  • high-moisture corn
  • cattle fed barley
  • milk-production
  • ruminal fermentation
  • feed-intake
  • rumen fermentation
  • enteric methane
  • n balance
  • beet pulp


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of dietary starch content and rate of fermentation on methane production in lactating dairy cows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this