Bernier, J. N., Undi, M., Plaizier, J. C., Wittenberg, K. M., Donohoe, G. R. and Ominski, K. H. 2012. Impact of prolonged cold exposure on dry matter intake and enteric methane emissions of beef cows overwintered on low-quality forage diets with and without supplemented wheat and corn dried distillers' grain with solubles. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 92: 493-500. This study was conducted to determine the impact of prolonged cold exposure on dry matter intake (DMI) and enteric methane (CH4) emissions of overwintering beef cows consuming low-quality forage with and without supplemented protein in the form of dried distillers' grain with solubles (DDGS). The study was carried out with 30 mature, dry, open beef cows (663±52.9 kg) that were fed a low-quality (deficient CP, 6.0% CP) forage (control), low-quality forage supplemented with 10% DDGS (sufficient CP, 8.7% CP; DDGS10) or 20% DDGS (excess CP, 11.6% CP; DDGS20). Carrying out the study from October through February allowed assessment under thermal neutral and prolonged cold conditions typical of the prairie region of Canada (Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan). Average minimum and maximum daily temperatures were 2.7 and 13.8°C in the thermal neutral period, and -23.5 and -11.0°C in the prolonged cold period, respectively. When no protein supplements were offered, cows exposed to prolonged cold consumed less (P=0.01) forage than when exposed to thermal neutral conditions. Enteric CH4 emissions, when measured as litres per day, were not influenced (P>0.05) by dietary protein supplementation, averaging 285.6±11.71, 311.9±11.49 and 282.6±13.02 L d-1 for cows fed control, DDGS10, and DDGS20 diets, respectively. When expressed as a percentage of energy consumed, cows consuming low-quality forage supplemented with 20% DDGS produced 18.5% less (P=0.01) enteric CH4 relative to cows consuming the low-quality forage only, with emissions of 5.3±0.38 and 6.5±0.33% GEI, respectively. Mature beef cows maintained at the same physiological status and dietary regime produced 26.8% less (P=0.001) enteric CH4 (7.1±0.30 vs. 5.2±0.26% GEI) under prolonged cold as compared with thermal neutral conditions. Based on these results, enteric CH4 emissions for the Canadian cow herd that is overwintered outdoors may be overestimated using current International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methodology.
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