Journal of dairy science

Effects on milk urea concentration, urine output, and drinking water intake from incremental doses of potassium bicarbonate fed to mid-lactation dairy cows.

PMID 24835966


Large variation exists in the potassium content of dairy cow feeds and also within a feed type due to soil type and fertilization. Increased ration K concentration causes a subsequent increase in urinary volume and could be expected to also lower milk urea concentration. Six multiparous mid-lactation Swedish Red dairy cows, all fitted with rumen cannulas, were subjected to 3 different levels of K intake in a Latin square experiment with three 2-wk periods to evaluate the effects on concentrations of milk urea and rumen ammonia, urinary output, and drinking water intake. The treatments were achieved by K supplementation on top of a low-K basal ration fed at individual allowances fixed throughout the experiment. The basal ration, consumed at 20.2 kg of dry matter (DM)/d, provided 165 g of crude protein/kg of DM and consisted of grass silage, concentrates, and urea in the proportions 39.3:60.0:0.7 on a DM basis. Potassium bicarbonate supplementation was 0, 616, and 1,142 g/d, respectively, to give total ration K concentrations that were low (LO; 12 g/kg of DM), medium (MED; 23 g/kg of DM), or high (HI; 32 g/kg of DM). Production and composition of milk was not affected by treatment. A linear effect on milk urea concentration was detected, being 4.48, 4.18, and 3.77 mM for LO, MED, and HI, respectively, and a linear tendency for rumen ammonia concentration with 6.65, 6.51, and 5.84 mg of NH₃-N/dL for LO, MED, and HI, respectively. Milk urea concentration peaked about 3h after the rumen ammonia peak from the morning feeding, at a level 1.3mM over the baseline. Urinary urea excretion declined linearly (105, 103, and 98 g of urea-N/d for LO, MED, and HI, respectively). Linear increases occurred in urinary output (0.058 ± 0.001 kg of urine/g of K intake; no intercept; coefficient of determination=0.997) and drinking water intake (65.9 ± 2.02 + 0.069 ± 0.004 kg of water/g of K intake; coefficient of determination=0.95). Urinary K concentration leveled off at 12.4 g/L. Urinary creatinine excretion was not affected by K addition, but allantoin excretion increased linearly by 27% from LO to HI, suggesting increased rumen microbial growth. Rumen pH, acetate proportion of total volatile fatty acids, and digestibility of DM, organic matter, and neutral detergent fiber increased linearly with increasing potassium intake. We concluded that increased ration K concentration lowers milk urea concentration with a magnitude significant for the interpretation of milk urea values, but other sources of variation, such as sampling time relative to feeding, may be even more important.