Effects of nitrogen fertilisation rate and maturity of grass silage on methane emission by lactating dairy cows

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

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26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Grass silage is typically fed to dairy cows in temperate regions. However, in vivo information on methane (CH4) emission from grass silage of varying quality is limited. We evaluated the effect of two rates of nitrogen (N) fertilisation of grassland (low fertilisation (LF), 65 kg of N/ha; and high fertilisation (HF), 150 kg of N/ha) and of three stages of maturity of grass at cutting: early maturity (EM; 28 days of regrowth), mid maturity (MM; 41 days of regrowth) and late maturity (LM; 62 days of regrowth) on CH4 production by lactating dairy cows. In a randomised block design, 54 lactating Holstein–Friesian dairy cows (168±11 days in milk; mean±standard error of mean) received grass silage (mainly ryegrass) and compound feed at 80 : 20 on dry matter basis. Cows were adapted to the diet for 12 days and CH4 production was measured in climate respiration chambers for 5 days. Dry matter intake (DMI; 14.9±0.56 kg/day) decreased with increasing N fertilisation and grass maturity. Production of fat- and protein-corrected milk (FPCM; 24.0±1.57 kg/day) decreased with advancing grass maturity but was not affected by N fertilisation. Apparent total-tract feed digestibility decreased with advancing grass maturity but was unaffected by N fertilisation except for an increase and decrease in N and fat digestibility with increasing N fertilisation, respectively. Total CH4 production per cow (347±13.6 g/day) decreased with increasing N fertilisation by 4% and grass maturity by 6%. The smaller CH4 production with advancing grass maturity was offset by a smaller FPCM and lower feed digestibility. As a result, with advancing grass maturity CH4 emission intensity increased per units of FPCM (15.0±1.00 g CH4/kg) by 31% and digestible organic matter intake (33.1±0.78 g CH4/kg) by 15%. In addition, emission intensity increased per units of DMI (23.5±0.43 g CH4/kg) by 7% and gross energy intake (7.0±0.14% CH4) by 9%, implying an increased loss of dietary energy with advancing grass maturity. Rate of N fertilisation had no effect on CH4 emissions per units of FPCM, DMI and gross energy intake. These results suggest that despite a lower absolute daily CH4 production with a higher N fertilisation rate, CH4 emission intensity remains unchanged. A significant reduction of CH4 emission intensity can be achieved by feeding dairy cows silage of grass harvested at an earlier stage of maturity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-43
JournalAnimal
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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