The effect of dietary addition of nitrate or increase in lipid concentrations, alone or in combination, on performance and methane emissions of beef cattle
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Adding nitrate to or increasing the concentration of lipid in the diet are established strategies for reducing enteric methane (CH4) emissions, but their effectiveness when used in combination has been largely unexplored. This study investigated the effect of dietary nitrate and increased lipid included alone or together on CH4 emissions and performance traits of finishing beef cattle. The experiment was a 2 × 4 factorial design comprising two breeds (AAx, cross-bred Aberdeen Angus; LIMx, cross-bred Limousin steers) and four dietary treatments (each based on 550 g forage: 450 g concentrate /kg DM). The four dietary treatments were assigned according to a 2 x 2 factorial design where the control treatment contained rapeseed meal as the main protein source which was replaced either with nitrate (21.5 g nitrate/kg DM); maize distillers dark grains (MDDG, which increased diet ether extract from 24 to 37 g/kg DM) or both nitrate and MDDG. Steers (n = 20 /dietary treatment) were allocated to each of the four treatments in equal numbers of each breed with feed offered ad libitum. After 28 days adaptation to dietary treatments, individual animal intake, performance and feed efficiency were recorded for 56 days. Thereafter, CH4 emissions were measured over 13 weeks (six steers / week). Increasing dietary lipid did not adversely affect animal performance and showed no interactions with dietary nitrate. In contrast, addition of nitrate to diets resulted in poorer live-weight gain (P<0.01) and increased feed conversion ratio (P<0.05) compared with diets not containing nitrate. Daily CH4 output was lower (P<0.001) on nitrate-containing diets but increasing dietary lipid resulted in only a non-significant reduction in CH4. There were no interactions associated with CH4 emissions between dietary nitrate and lipid. AAx steers achieved greater live-weight gains (P<0.01), but had greater DM intakes (P<0.001), greater fat depth (P<0.01) and poorer residual feed intakes (P<0.01) than LIMx steers. AAx steers had higher daily CH4 outputs (P<0.001) but emitted less CH4 per kg DM intake than LIMx steers (P<0.05). In conclusion, inclusion of nitrate reduced CH4 emissions in growing beef cattle although the efficacy of nitrate was less than in previous work. When increased dietary lipid and nitrate inclusion were combined there was no evidence of an interaction between treatments and therefore combining different nutritional treatments to mitigate CH4 emissions could be a useful means of achieving reductions in CH4 while minimizing any adverse effects.
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