Some considerations on the of Urea in bovine feed.

in #agriculture2 months ago (edited)
Dear readers, in a previous article we mentioned the intention of using banana fruit with urea as a supplement, however, the use of this type of elements is very delicate when it is added to the food ration of animals, therefore, we conducted a literature review and consulted some producers who use this alternative, to clarify a little how its effect on the diet of cattle.

We begin by pointing out that, according to Cortez and Araque (1998), in most grasses and other green forages, only part of the nitrogen comes from proteins, and another part comes from inorganic nitrogen salts. This, according to the researchers, is of no importance for a ruminant, since they can use either of the two nitrogens, through the microbial activity of the rumen (compartment of the bovine stomach), where the bacteria incorporate it into their own proteins and then the protein that is in the bodies of those microorganisms is then digested in the intestinal tube of the ruminant and absorbed. Therefore, some researchers consider that it is possible to take advantage of cheaper sources of nitrogen, which can be equally effective.

According to the aforementioned, one of the sources of nitrogen used in bovine nutrition in our geographical area is Urea, although not all producers use it because proper management is required to avoid animal poisoning. In that sense, Urea CO(NH2)2 is considered one of the most economical sources of nitrogen, it is a kind of granulated white powder soluble in water, which is widely used in fertilization and we have generally observed that when they use it for feeding ruminants they mix it with molasses.

In this same order of ideas, as the transformation of urea occurs through the activity of microorganisms present in the rumen, researchers such as Araque (2006), point out that it is essential to use it under certain conditions, to achieve a better use:

  • It should be offered only to animals with functional rumen, that is, animals that have been weaned and with weights greater than 150 kg.
  • It should not be used with an easily assimilable energy source, that is why we have observed that they apply it mixed with molasses.
  • It usually takes about two weeks to achieve a complete adaptation and thus a better utilization of urea by the animal.
The aforementioned conditions are important to take into account to avoid toxicity problems, some producers mention that as a preventive measure it is recommended to have a 5% acetic acid or vinegar solution available, which must be supplied orally, if some symptoms such as restlessness, excessive salivation, difficult breathing, muscle tremors, tympanism and stiffness of the forelimbs appear, the amount of vinegar to use is 0.5 L / 100 kg of live weight of the animal.

On the other hand, regarding the synthesis of protein from urea in the rumen (bovine stomach compartment) Church (1993), indicates that immediately after consumption, it is hydrolyzed in ammonia and carbon dioxide in the rumen by the enzyme urease, produced by certain bacteria, in the same way other microorganisms degrade carbohydrates and produce volatile fatty acids and ketoacids. Then, the ammonia released in the rumen combines with the ketoacids to form the amino acids, which in turn are incorporated into the microbial protein, which are degraded in another compartment of the stomach the abomasum and in the small intestine, to then be degraded to free amino acids and finally be absorbed by the animal.

Structure of the digestive system of a bovine

Design made by @amestyj with own images

If during this metabolic process the ammonia is not transformed into microbial protein, it will be absorbed by the rumen and eliminated through the liver, kidneys and urine in the form of urea and another portion of urea returns to the rumen through saliva or diffuses from the blood to the rumen.

Final considerations
Dear readers, urea can be supplied to animals by spraying the pastures with the mixture that is made with molasses, it can be used as a protein source in silage and hay, it is also observed that the mixture with molasses is provided to the animal directly, but some researchers recommend not applying more than 1% urea in complete rations.

Thank you for reading our article, until a next installment.

Bibliographic references
  • Cortes R. and Araque C. (1998). "Evaluation of the effect of different levels of Urea in Multi-nutritional Blocks on the consumption of the blocks and weight gains in mautes”. Journal of the faculty of agronomy LUZ, 15, 180-187. Venezuela.

  • Araque C. (2006). "Importance of Urea in Bovine Supplementation”. Bovine Venezuela. 69, 36-39. Venezuela.

  • Church, C. (1993). The ruminant digestive physiology and nutrition. Editorial Acribia. Zaragoza: Spain.

  • Van Soest, P. (1994).Ecological nutrition of the rumen (2nd ed). Cornell University prees.


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I didn't know that urea was important for animals with rumen! It is pretty toxic right?

Hello dear @gwajnberg, the important thing for bovine feeding specifically in the rumen is to have a balance between protein and carbohydrate levels, as mentioned in the article, however there are forages that do not have adequate protein levels, therefore, the use of non-protein nitrogen sources such as urea arises as an alternative, to supplement the deficiency that exist in plants.

If it is not handled carefully, it can generate a high toxicity in the animal until it causes death.

So long, have a great week.

You seem therefore to recommend a balanced usage of urea when handling pastures. Is this correctly understood?


Greetings dear @lemouth, the urea that you mention in the article is used as an alternative to supplement the nitrogen deficiency that may exist in pastures, to supply it, it can be applied on forage mixed with molasses.

Its use is delicate, not all producers use it and whoever does it must establish some criteria such as those mentioned in the article to avoid poisoning in the animal.

So long, have a great week.

Thanks for all these clarifications!



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