Modeling the Effect of Nutritional Strategies for Dairy Cows on the Composition of Excreta Nitrogen

Dijkstra, J.; Bannink, A.; Bosma, Pieter M.; Lantinga, E.A.; Reijs, J.W.


For an integrated evaluation of the effect of nutritional strategies on the utilization and losses of N at dairy farms, reliable estimates of excreta production and composition are indispensable. An extant, dynamic, mechanistic model of rumen functioning was extended with static equations that describe intestinal digestion to simulate the composition of dairy cow feces and urine as a function of diet composition. The extended model predicts organic matter (OM), carbon (C), and nitrogen (N) output of both feces and urine, classified in different components. Total N excretion was partitioned in three fractions based on the C:N ratio of individual components representing their availability of N following manure application to crops, viz. NM (immediately available), NE (easily decomposable), and NR (resistant). Forty nutritional strategies for stall-fed dairy cows, covering diets with a wide range in protein content and OM digestibility, were evaluated. The simulated ranges in fecal and urinary composition were largely in line with values reported in literature. Diet intake and composition had a substantial effect on simulated total N excretion and excreta composition, mainly because of differences in the level of NM excretion and the C:N ratio of the NR fraction. Furthermore, it was shown that the type of OM excreted varies considerably between different diets. A simplified simulation of degradation processes during the first 4 months of excreta storage produced average values and ranges of slurry characteristics that were in line with values reported in literature. The simulated variation in slurry characteristics suggested a strong variability in ammonia N losses from the slurry pit and a moderate variability in plant availability of slurry N. Further efforts are required to integrate effects of manure storage conditions on the storage processes. In conclusion, the model can be a tool to predict fecal and urinary composition of cattle, and ultimately to improve the utilization of N from field applied manure as well as to evaluate the effects of different nutritional strategies on the whole-farm N balance.