An analysis of the relationship between plasma urea and ammonia concentration in dairy cattle fed a consistent diet over a 100-day period

Laven, R A and Wathes, D C and Lawrence, K E and Scaramuzzi, R J (2007) An analysis of the relationship between plasma urea and ammonia concentration in dairy cattle fed a consistent diet over a 100-day period. Journal of Dairy Research, 74 (4). pp. 412-416.

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Abstract

Measurement of plasma urea concentration is often used to identify a risk of dietary nitrogen-associated infertility. However, the use of plasma urea concentration in this way relies on it being an effective predictor for other potential toxic products associated with nitrogen metabolism (such as plasma or uterine ammonia). Recent research has shown that dietary nitrogen-associated infertility can be produced by diets which elevate plasma ammonia concentration without markedly increasing plasma urea concentration. Thus for cattle on different diets plasma urea concentration cannot be used to predict plasma ammonia concentration. This study evaluated whether plasma urea concentration could be used to predict plasma ammonia concentration in cattle kept on consistent diets. Data were analysed from a study where 42 cattle had been fed a control diet or the control diet plus 250 g urea per cow per day and had had weekly measurements of post-prandial plasma urea and ammonia concentrations. This analysis found that over a 100-d period, plasma urea concentration was relatively constant and unaffected by time while plasma ammonia concentration was significantly more variable, being affected by time since the study started, and whether cows began the study in the first or second group. Correlation between plasma ammonia and urea was limited; plasma urea concentration explained only 3.8% of the variation in plasma ammonia concentration. These data suggest that, even in cows on consistent diets, plasma urea concentration is not a good predictor of plasma ammonia, and that a simple urea threshold may not accurately identify the risk of dietary nitrogen-associated infertility.