Crude protein concentration in diets based on high-moisture maize grain was increased using rumen degradable protein (RDP) or rumen undegradable protein (UDP). Treatment diets (numbers in parentheses indicate approximate RDP and UDP concentrations, g/kg dry matter (DM)) were: low-RDP (59, 80), high-RDP (79, 92), low-UDP (66, 67), high-UDP (69, 107, with maize gluten meal as chief UDP source) and high-UDP (71, 91, with fish, meat and maize gluten meals as UDP sources). Rumen pH and concentrations of volatile fatty acids, measured hourly for 12 h after feeding in four rumen fistulated Holstein steers, were unaffected by treatment (P > 0·05). Rumen ammonia-N concentration was greater for high-RDP (193 mg/1) than low-RDP (68 mg/1; P < 0·001). Within 12 h of feeding, ammonia-N concentration declined from 169 to 58 mg/1 for low-RDP and remained stable for high-RDP.
In a 56-day feeding trial using Holstein heifers (live weight 128 kg) and the first four treatments, RDP concentration had no effect on DM intake (P > 0·05). Lower DM intake (P < 0·01) for high-UDP (4·40 kg/day) than low-UDP (5·13 kg/day) was attributed to low palatability of maize gluten meal. Live-weight gain and food conversion efficiency were unaffected by treatment.
In a 56-day feeding trial using Holstein bulls (live weight 110 kg) and all treatments, RDP concentration had no effect on animal performance (P > 0·05). Food conversion efficiency increased (P < 0·001) when UDP concentration was increased only if UDP was supplied by a mix of fish, meat and maize gluten meals.
When RDP supply was not limiting to DM intake, protein source (amino acid composition) was better than protein degradability as an index of the feeding value of dietary protein.