Ammonia-N concentration in alfalfa silage and its effects on dairy cow performance: a meta-analysis
Background: Ammonia nitrogen (N) in alfalfa silage is used to evaluate silage quality, but its effect on dairy cows production is unknown. Objective: A meta-analysis was conducted to assess the effects of ammonia-N concentration in alfalfa silage on dairy cow performance. Methods: Thirty-four comparisons from 10 studies were analyzed with linear and quadratic models by the mixed-effect models of the R program using study as a random effect. The variance explained by the models was evaluated calculating marginal R2 (m) and conditional R2 (c). Results: Dry matter intake declined (DMI; p = 0.007), and milk production and milk fat yield tended to decrease linearly in response to increasing ammonia-N concentration (p = 0.08). Milk fat and milk protein percentages were unaffected. Milk protein yield, however, showed a positive linear trend effect (p = 0.07) along with a significant quadratic effect (p = 0.01) in response to increasing ammonia-N concentration. Values of R2 (m) and R2 (c) indicated less variation for significant models. Conclusion: Increased ammonia-N in alfalfa silage reduced DMI, negatively impacting milk production and milk fat yield. The quadratic response in milk protein yield might be explained by the initial reduction in milk production, and the subsequent utilization of ammonia-N to produce more rumen microbial protein, which results in more milk protein.
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