Rumen digestion and urinary excretion of purine derivatives in response to urea supplementation of sodium-treated straw fed to sheep
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The present study examined the effect of urea-N supplementation of a N-deficient diet on digestion and metabolism in the rumen. Five Rasa Aragonesa ewes, each fitted with a rumen cannula, were offered alkali-treated barley straw ad lib. alone or supplemented continuously via the cannula with four levels of urea-N (3, 6, 9 and 12g/d). Rumen NH, concentrations increased in response to urea infusion (6128 mgfl; P < 0.001). At the highest level of rumen NH, concentration there was a significant increase, compared with the unsupplemented treatment, in dry matter (DM) intake (8461206 g/d; P < 0.001) and apparent digestibility of DM (0.38443), organic matter (0.38-0.45) and neutraldetergent fibre (0.41-0.49; P < 0.01). Rumen outflow rates of particulate matter and potential DM disappearances, assessed using nylon bags, were not affected by the experimental treatments, although fractional rate of DM disappearance increased significantly with increasing levels of urea infusion (2446per h). Urinary excretion of total purine derivatives increased with N supplementation, although the response was exclusively due to an increase in allantoin excretion (26.9-66.4 mg/kg live weight (W)07’ per d; P < 0,001). Xanthine, hypoxanthine and uric acid excretion rates were constant, averaging 1.8 (SE 0.17); 5.4 (SE 0.21) and 7.2 (SE 0.36) mg/kg W07s per d respectively. The maintenance of a minimum rumen NH, concentration (approximately 50 mg/l) was necessary to avoid significant reductions in DM intake and fermentation rate. Higher levels, however, may further increase microbial N flow at the duodenum, as suggested by the response in urinary allantoin excretion over the range of rumen NH, concentrations.