Nitrogen metabolism and mammary gland amino acid utilization in lactating dairy cows with different residual feed intake

  • Xie, Yunyi (Institute of Dairy Science, MOE Key Laboratory of Molecular Animal Nutrition, College of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University) ;
  • Miao, Chao (Institute of Dairy Science, MOE Key Laboratory of Molecular Animal Nutrition, College of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University) ;
  • Lu, Yi (Institute of Dairy Science, MOE Key Laboratory of Molecular Animal Nutrition, College of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University) ;
  • Sun, Huizeng (Institute of Dairy Science, MOE Key Laboratory of Molecular Animal Nutrition, College of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University) ;
  • Liu, Jianxin (Institute of Dairy Science, MOE Key Laboratory of Molecular Animal Nutrition, College of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University)
  • Received : 2020.12.06
  • Accepted : 2021.01.30
  • Published : 2021.10.01


Objective: This study was conducted to enhance our understanding of nitrogen (N) metabolism and mammary amino acid (AA) utilization in lactating cows with divergent phenotypes of residual feed intake (RFI). Methods: Fifty-three multiparous mid-lactation Holstein dairy cows were selected for RFI measurements over a 50-d experimental period. The 26 cows with the most extreme RFI values were classified into the high RFI (n = 13) and low RFI (n = 13) groups, respectively, for analysis of N metabolism and AA utilization. Results: Compared with the high RFI cows, the low RFI animals had lower dry matter intake (p<0.01) with no difference observed in milk yield between the two groups (p>0.10). However, higher ratios of milk yield to dry matter intake (p<0.01) were found in the low RFI cows than in the high RFI cows. The low RFI cows had significant greater ratios of milk protein to metabolizable protein (p = 0.02) and milk protein to crude protein intake than the high RFI cows (p = 0.01). The arterial concentration and mammary uptake of essential AA (p<0.10), branched-chain AA (p<0.10), and total AA (p<0.10) tended to be lower in the low RFI cows. Additionally, the low RFI cows tended to have a lower ratio of AA uptake to milk output for essential AA (p = 0.08), branched-chain AA (p = 0.07) and total AA (p = 0.09) than the high RFI cows. Conclusion: In summary, both utilization of metabolizable protein for milk protein and mammary AA utilization are more efficient in cows with lower RFI than in the high RFI cows. Our results provide new insight into the protein metabolic processes (related to N and AA) involved in feed efficiency.



This research described herein was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31872380) and the China Agricultural (Dairy) Research System (CARS-36, Beijing). The authors thank the staff of the Hangzhou Zhengxing Animal Industry Company (Hangzhou, China) for their assistance. We also acknowledge the members of the Institute of Dairy Science of Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China) for their assistance in the field sampling and data analysis.


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