L-Arginine Nutrition and Metabolism in Ruminants. Chapter uri icon


  • L-Arginine (Arg) plays a central role in the nitrogen metabolism (e.g., syntheses of protein, nitric oxide, polyamines, and creatine), blood flow, nutrient utilization, and health of ruminants. This amino acid is produced by ruminal bacteria and is also synthesized from L-glutamine, L-glutamate, and L-proline via the formation of L-citrulline (Cit) in the enterocytes of young and adult ruminants. In pre-weaning ruminants, most of the Cit formed de novo by the enterocytes is used locally for Arg production.In post-weaning ruminants, the small intestine-derived Cit is converted into Arg primarily in the kidneys and, to a lesser extent, in endothelial cells, macrophages, and other cell types. Under normal feeding conditions, Arg synthesis contributes 65% and 68% of total Arg requirements for nonpregnant and late pregnany ewes fed a diet with~12% crude protein, respectively, whereas creatine production requires 40% and 36% of Arg utilized by nonpregnant and late pregnant ewes, respectively. Arg has not traditionally been considered a limiting nutrient in diets for post-weaning, gestating, or lactating ruminants because it has been assumed that these animals can synthesize sufficient Arg to meet their nutritional and physiological needs. This lack of a full understanding of Arg nutrition and metabolism has contributed to suboptimal efficiencies for milk production, reproductive performance, and growth in ruminants. There is now considerable evidence that dietary supplementation with rumen-protected Arg (e.g., 0.25-0.5% of dietary dry matter) can improve all these production indices without adverse effectson metabolism or health. Because extracellular Cit is not degraded by microbes in the rumen due to the lack of uptake, Cit can be used without any encapsulation as an effective dietary source for the synthesis of Arg in ruminants, including dairy and beef cows, as well as sheep and goats. Thus, an adequate amount of supplemental rumen-protected Arg or unencapsulated Cit is necessary to support maximum survival, growth, lactation, reproductive performance, and feed efficiency, as well as optimum health and well-being in all ruminants.

author list (cited authors)

  • Wu, G., Bazer, F. W., Satterfield, M. C., Gilbreath, K. R., Posey, E. A., & Sun, Y.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Wu, Guoyao||Bazer, Fuller W||Satterfield, M Carey||Gilbreath, Kyler R||Posey, Erin A||Sun, Yuxiang

Book Title

  • Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition and Metabolism

publication date

  • January 2022