A growth study and a companion N balance study were conducted to evaluate the effect of dietary protein on growth and N utilization of postpubertal Holstein heifers. Forty heifers (398 ± 9.4 kg) were fed one of four diets containing 8, 11, 13, or 15% crude protein (CP) for 121 d. Body measurements were taken at the beginning and end of the experimental period. Blood was collected via jugular vein every 28 d and evaluated for serum protein, albumin, and urea nitrogen. Curvilinear relationships were observed between dietary CP and gains in wither height and hip width, with maximal gains occurring at 13% CP. Feeding heifers higher amounts of dietary CP resulted in linear increases in heart girth gain, serum protein, albumin, and blood urea nitrogen. In the companion N balance study, feeding increasing amounts of dietary CP to heifers resulted in linear increases in N intake, fecal-N, urinary-N, and absorbed-N. There was a numerical trend towards maximal N retention in heifers fed diets containing 13% CP. Curvilinear relationships also were observed between dietary CP and dry matter, organic matter, and CP digestibility with maximal nutrient digestibilities occurring when heifers were fed diets containing 13% CP. Data suggest 13% dietary CP was optimal for postpubertal (400 kg) Holstein heifers.
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The financial support of Roche Vitamins is acknowledged. The authors also acknowledge S. Benson, R. Wernberg, G. Swart, and all the crew at the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station for their dedicated efforts.