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Relationships between dietary factors and milk urea nitrogen level in goats grazing herbaceous pasture

  • Autori: Bonanno, A.; Todaro, M.; DI GRIGOLI, A.; Scatassa, M.; Tornambè, G.; Alicata, M.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2008
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • OA Link:


This investigation aimed to individuate the dietary factors affecting the milk urea nitrogen (MUN) concentration in goats grazing herbaceous pasture and, particularly, to verify the relationship linking the diet crude protein (CP) content to MUN. A total of 205 individual observations regarding dietary and milk variables of 37 Girgentana goats involved in two experiments were used. Goats, averaging 154±14 days in milk and 38.1±5.4 kg of live weight, grazed on swards and received 500 g/d of barley meal. Sward biomass, herbage selected by goats and individual milk yield were measured and sampled weekly. The herbage intake and diet digestibility were estimated by the n-alkane method. Milk urea content was determined by an enzymatic method and transformed in MUN (MUN=urea*0.4665). The MUN concentration (9.7-35.4 mg/dl) was positively correlated with diet CP content (13.7-26.0% of dry matter (DM); r=0.76; P<0.001), pasture allowance (39-151 kg DM/goat; r=0.42; P<0.001), diet net energy for lactation concentration (NEL) (1.5-1.9 Mcal/kg DM; r=0.37; P<0.001) and milk yield (320- 2250 g/d; r=0.25; P<0.001), and negatively related with NDF (18.7-37.4% DM; r=-0.69; P<0.001) and diet digestibility (72.6-92.5%; r=-0.33; P< 0.001). The stepwise selection from dietary variables and milk yield showed dietary CP percentage to be the single variable explaining the most variation in MUN (R2=0.56; P< 0.0001). The other variables entering into the model were diet NDF, 3.5% fat-corrected milk (FCM), DM intake and NDF intake (total R2=0.66). Including the CP/NEL and CP/NDF ratios of diet in the stepwise regression model, the CP/NDF ratio alone explained 60.1% of MUN variability, followed by barley proportion in the diet, FCM and diet CP concentration, absorbing an extra 4.6% of MUN variability. A linear regression, fitting mean feeding treatment per time data of MUN and dietary CP concentration (n=28)[CP(% of DM)=6.91±1.42+0.61±0.06*MUN (mg/dl); R²=0.79; P<0.0001], suggests that MUN could be used for predicting the CP content of the diet, as a tool for developing feeding strategies aimed at balancing the rations of grazing goats through adequate supplementation. Further data from experiments on grazing goats in different environmental conditions are required in order to define a more robust relationship by which to predict the dietary CP content by MUN.