Effects of encapsulated nitrate on eating behavior, rumen fermentation, and blood profile of beef heifers fed restrictively or ad libitum


Lee, C., Araujo, R.C., Koenig, K.M., Beauchemin, K.A. (2015). Effects of encapsulated nitrate on eating behavior, rumen fermentation, and blood profile of beef heifers fed restrictively or ad libitum. Journal of Animal Science, [online] 93(5), 2405-2418. http://dx.doi.org/10.2527/jas.2014-8851


A slow-release form of nitrate (encapsulated nitrate [EN]) was investigated for effects on risk of toxicity, feed consumption rates, and feed sorting behavior in 2 experiments. In Exp. 1, 5 beef heifers (806 ± 72 kg BW) were fed once daily at 75% of ad libitum intake. Supplementary EN (85.6% DM; 71.4% NO3- on a DM basis) was increased by 1% every 4 d from 0 to 1.0, 2.0, 2.9, 3.9, 4.8, and 5.8% of dietary DM (from 10.3 to 15.6% CP and 0.11 to 4.8% total NO3-). During the study, a heifer was removed due to nitrate poisoning with 59% blood methemoglobin (MetHb; % of total hemoglobin) at 2.9% EN and another due to refusal to eat the 2% EN diet. When dietary EN increased from 0 to 5.8%, DMI (8.8 to 7.6 kg/d; P < 0.001) and feed consumption from 0 to 3 h were decreased (70.3 to 48.6% of total feed offered on an as-is basis; P = 0.001) and feed consumption from 12 to 24 h was increased (0.6 to 22.6%; P < 0.001). Blood MetHb at 1% EN was negligible (<1.5% of total hemoglobin). However, MetHb levels were greater (average 9.8 vs. 3.1% and maximum 23.6 vs. 13.6% at 3 h) at 2.0 and 2.9% EN than at 3.9, 4.8, and 5.8% EN. In Exp. 2, 8 beef heifers (451 ± 21 kg BW) were used in a replicated 4 × 4 Latin square design and fed for ad libitum intake, once daily, diets containing 0, 1, 2, and 3% EN (isonitrogenous, 12.7% CP, and 0.15 to 2.5% total NO3- in dietary DM). Each period consisted of 14 d for adaption and 14 d for sampling followed by a 7-d washout. During adaptation, EN was provided to heifers in a stepwise manner (an increase by 1% every 4 d). In Exp. 2 with ad libitum feeding, feed consumption rates were not different (41.8% of total feed consumed from 0 to 3 h; P = 0.56) among EN levels, but DMI tended to decrease linearly (0 to 3% EN; 10.4 to 10.1 kg/d; P = 0.06) and feed was sorted (linear, P < 0.05) against concentrates (containing EN) with EN inclusion. Potential toxicity of nitrate based on blood MetHb was not observed (all samples <2.0% of total hemoglobin). In both studies, ruminal pH increased numerically (Exp. 1) and significantly (Exp. 2; linear, P = 0.04) with EN. In conclusion, studies indicated that the organoleptic properties of diets containing >3% EN may have caused lower feed intake, reduced feed consumption rates, and feed sorting. In addition, feed consumption rate, which was altered by restrictive or ad libitum feeding, was an important factor affecting the potential toxicity of nitrate (e.g., MetHb). Ad libitum feeding minimized risks of nitrate toxicity.