Inclusion of quebracho tannin extract in a high-roughage cattle diet alters digestibility, nitrogen balance, and energy partitioning.
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Condensed tannins (CT) might improve animal and system-level efficiency due to enhanced protein efficiency and reduced CH4. This study evaluated the impact of quebracho tannin (QT) extract fed at 0%, 1.5%, 3%, and 4.5% of dry matter (DM), within a roughage-based diet on apparent digestibility of DM, organic matter (OM), fibrous fractions, and N retention and energy partitioning of growing steers (236 16 kg BW). A Latin rectangle design with eight animals and four periods was used to determine the whole-animal exchange of CO2, O2, and CH4 as well as the collection of total feces and urine over a 48-h period, using two open-circuit, indirect calorimetry respiration chambers. Following the removal of steers from respiration chambers, rumen inoculum was collected to determine ruminal parameter, including volatile fatty acids (VFA) and ammonia. Animals were fed a 56.5% roughage diet at 1.7% BW (dry matter basis). Dry matter and gross energy intakes were influenced by the level of QT inclusion (P 0.036). Digestibility of DM, OM, and N was reduced with QT inclusion (P < 0.001), and fiber digestibility was slightly impacted (P > 0.123). QTs altered the N excretion route, average fecal N-to-total N ratio excreted increased 14%, and fecal N-to-urinary N ratio increased 38% (P < 0.001) without altering the retained N. Increased fecal energy with QT provision resulted in reduced dietary digestible energy (DE) concentration (Mcal/kg DM; P = 0.024). There were no differences in urinary energy (P = 0.491), but CH4 energy decreased drastically (P = 0.007) as QT inclusion increased. Total ruminal VFA concentration did not differ across treatments, but VFA concentration increased linearly with QT inclusion (P = 0.049). Metabolizable energy (ME) was not affected by the QT rate, and the conversion efficiency of DE-to-ME did not differ. Heat energy decreased (P = 0.013) with increased QT provision likely due to changes in the DE intake, but there was no difference in retained energy. There were no differences for retained energy or N per CO2 equivalent emission produced (P = 0.774 and 0.962, respectively), but improved efficiency for energy retention occurred for 3% QT. We concluded that QT provided up to 4.5% of dry matter intake (about 3.51% of CT, dry matter basis) does not affect N and energy retention within the current setting. Feeding QT reduced energy losses in the form of CH4 and heat, but the route of energy loss appears to be influenced by the rate of QT inclusion.