The effects of feeding nitrate on the development of methaemoglobinaemia in sedentary Bos indicus cattle

Benu, I., Callaghan, M.J., Tomkins, N., Hepworth, G., Fitzpatrick, L., and Parker, A.J. (2021) The effects of feeding nitrate on the development of methaemoglobinaemia in sedentary Bos indicus cattle. Animal Production Science, 61 (16). pp. 1680-1685.

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Context: Nitrate salts can be utilised by the rumen bacteria as a nitrogen source. Nitrate salts can induce a methaemoglobinaemia in cattle if consumed in sufficient quantities. Methaemoglobinaemia is the principal factor that leads to the onset of clinical signs for nitrate toxicity in cattle. A methaemoglobin concentration ≥20% is considered unsafe for cattle. There are, however, limited studies on the longer-term effects of nitrate supplementation on methaemoglobin formation in Bos indicus steers consuming forage that is reflective of northern Australia’s poor quality, native pasture in the dry season.

Aims: We hypothesised that the Australian government’s recommended daily dose of nitrate salts given to Bos indicus cattle would not cause a methaemoglobinaemia in the blood >20% throughout a 70 day treatment period.

Methods: A 70 day study was conducted to determine the methaemoglobin, carboxyhaemoglobin, total haemoglobin, growth rate and forage intakes of cattle supplemented with a non-protein-nitrogen treatment containing nitrate (6.48 g NO3/kg dry matter intake (DMI) or no nitrate and consuming a chaffed Flinders grass hay (Iseilema spp.), a C4 species. The dose rate of nitrate was selected to match the Australian government guidelines. Ten 3-year-old fistulated Bos indicus steers (mean liveweight ± s.d., 400.7 ± 26.2 kg) were randomly allocated into two groups (n = 5). Blood samples were collected at 0, 2, 4 and 6 h after treatment with nitrate or no nitrate on days 10, 30, 50 and 70 to measure haemoglobin fractions in the blood.

Key Results: Nitrate treatment caused the mean methaemoglobin (P < 0.001), peak methaemoglobin (P < 0.001) and carboxyhaemoglobin (P = 0.008) concentration to be greater in the blood of steers compared with steers given no nitrate. Nitrate treatment had no general effect on the total haemoglobin, DMI or bodyweight of steers.

Conclusions: Bos indicus steers treated with 6.48 g NO3/kg DMI develop a methaemoglobinaemia that does not exceed 20% of total haemoglobin for 70 days. This data supports the Australian government’s recommended feeding rate of nitrate to sedentary Bos indicus steers.

Implications: The Australian government’s method for feeding nitrate to cattle is safe under the conditions of this study.

Item ID: 70088
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1836-5787
Keywords: beef cattle, Bos indicus, cattle, haemoglobin, methaemoglobin, MetHb, nitrite, non-protein-nitrogen, NPN, rumen bacteria, rumen microflora, supplements
Copyright Information: © Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 2021.
Date Deposited: 09 May 2022 03:15
Downloads: Total: 1
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