Evaluation of milk urea nitrogen as a diagnostic of protein feeding

J Nousiainen, K J Shingfield, P Huhtanen

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An evaluation of milk urea nitrogen (MUN) as a diagnostic of protein feeding in dairy cows was performed using mean treatment data (n = 306) from 50 production trials conducted in Finland (n = 48) and Sweden (n = 2). Data were used to assess the effects of diet composition and certain animal characteristics on MUN and to derive relationships between MUN and the efficiency of N utilization for milk production and urinary N excretion. Relationships were developed using regression analysis based on either models of fixed factors or using mixed models that account for between-experiment variations. Dietary crude protein (CP) content was the best single predictor of MUN and accounted for proportionately 0.778 of total variance [MUN (mg/dL) = -14.2 + 0.17 x dietary CP content (g/kg dry matter)]. The proportion of variation explained by this relationship increased to 0.952 when a mixed model including the random effects of study was used, but both the intercept and slope remained unchanged. Use of rumen degradable CP concentration in excess of predicted requirements, or the ratio of dietary CP to metabolizable energy as single predictors, did not explain more of the variation in MUN (R(2) = 0.767 or 0.778, respectively) than dietary CP content. Inclusion of other dietary factors with dietary CP content in bivariate models resulted in only marginally better predictions of MUN (R(2) = 0.785 to 0.804). Closer relationships existed between MUN and dietary factors when nutrients (CP to metabolizable energy) were expressed as concentrations in the diet, rather than absolute intakes. Furthermore, both MUN and MUN secretion (g/d) provided more accurate predictions of urinary N excretion (R(2) = 0.787 and 0.835, respectively) than measurements of the efficiency of N utilization for milk production (R(2) = 0.769). It is concluded that dietary CP content is the most important nutritional factor influencing MUN, and that measurements of MUN can be utilized as a diagnostic of protein feeding in the dairy cow and used to predict urinary N excretion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-398
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Milk
  • Nitrogen
  • Rumen
  • Urea


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