Article open access publication

Effect of dietary nitrate level on enteric methane production, hydrogen emission, rumen fermentation, and nutrient digestibility in dairy cows

Journal of Dairy Science, American Dairy Science Association, ISSN 1525-3198

Volume 99, 8, 2016

DOI:10.3168/jds.2015-10691, Dimensions: pub.1035676280, PMID: 27236758,


Brask, M. (1)
Lund, P. (1)

* Corresponding author



  1. (1) Aarhus University, grid.7048.b, AU
  2. (2) Wageningen University & Research, grid.4818.5
  3. (3) Regionshospitalet Viborg, grid.416838.0, Central Denmark Region







Nitrate may lower methane production in ruminants by competing with methanogenesis for available hydrogen in the rumen. This study evaluated the effect of 4 levels of dietary nitrate addition on enteric methane production, hydrogen emission, feed intake, rumen fermentation, nutrient digestibility, microbial protein synthesis, and blood methemoglobin. In a 4×4 Latin square design 4 lactating Danish Holstein dairy cows fitted with rumen, duodenal, and ileal cannulas were assigned to 4 calcium ammonium nitrate addition levels: control, low, medium, and high [0, 5.3, 13.6, and 21.1g of nitrate/kg of dry matter (DM), respectively]. Diets were made isonitrogenous by replacing urea. Cows were fed ad libitum and, after a 6-d period of gradual introduction of nitrate, adapted to the corn-silage-based total mixed ration (forage:concentrate ratio 50:50 on DM basis) for 16d before sampling. Digesta content from duodenum, ileum, and feces, and rumen liquid were collected, after which methane production and hydrogen emissions were measured in respiration chambers. Methane production [L/kg of dry matter intake (DMI)] linearly decreased with increasing nitrate concentrations compared with the control, corresponding to a reduction of 6, 13, and 23% for the low, medium, and high diets, respectively. Methane production was lowered with apparent efficiencies (measured methane reduction relative to potential methane reduction) of 82.3, 71.9, and 79.4% for the low, medium, and high diets, respectively. Addition of nitrate increased hydrogen emissions (L/kg of DMI) quadratically by a factor of 2.5, 3.4, and 3.0 (as L/kg of DMI) for the low, medium, and high diets, respectively, compared with the control. Blood methemoglobin levels and nitrate concentrations in milk and urine increased with increasing nitrate intake, but did not constitute a threat for animal health and human food safety. Microbial crude protein synthesis and efficiency were unaffected. Total volatile fatty acid concentration and molar proportions of acetate, butyrate, and propionate were unaffected, whereas molar proportions of formate increased. Milk yield, milk composition, DMI and digestibility of DM, organic matter, crude protein, and neutral detergent fiber in rumen, small intestine, hindgut, and total tract were unaffected by addition of nitrate. In conclusion, nitrate lowered methane production linearly with minor effects on rumen fermentation and no effects on nutrient digestibility.

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