Metabolizable protein (MP) supply and amino acid balance in the intestine were manipulated through selection of highly digestible rumen-undegradable protein (RUP) sources and protected methionine (Met) supplementation. Four ruminallycannulated, multiparous Holstein cows averaging 193
13 days in milk were used in a 4
4 Latin square design to assess N utilization and milk production responses to changes in RUP level, post-ruminal RUP digestibility and protected Met supplementation. Treatments were A) 14.0% crude protein (CP), 8.0% rumen degradable protein (RDP) and 6.0% RUP of low intestinal digestibility (HiRUP-LoDRUP); B) 14.1% CP, 8.1% RDP and 6.0% RUP of high intestinal digestibility (HiRUP-HiDRUP); C) 13.1% CP, 7.9% RDP and 5.2% RUP of high intestinal digestibility (LoRUP-HiDRUP), and D) 13.1% CP, 7.9% RDP and 5.2% RUP of high intestinal digestibility plus rumen escape sources of Met (LoRUP-HiDRUP+Met). Experimental diets were formulated to have similar concentrations of RDP, net energy of lactation (
), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), calcium, phosphorus and ether extract using the NRC model (2001). Results showed that dry matter intake (DMI), production of milk fat and protein were similar among treatments. Milk production was similar for diet HiRUP-LoDRUP, HiRUP-HiDRUP and LoRUP-HiDRUP+Met, and significantly higher than diet LoRUP-HiDRUP. Milk fat and protein percentage were higher for cows receiving HiDRUP treatments, with the greatest increases in the diet LoRUP-HiDRUP+Met. There was no significant change in ruminal pH,
and volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentration among all treatments. Apparent digestibility of dry matter (DM), CP, NDF and ADF and estimated bacterial CP synthesis were similar for all treatments. Nitrogen intakes, blood and milk urea-N concentrations were significantly higher for cows receiving HiRUP diets. Urine volume and total urinary N excretion were significantly lowered by LoRUP diets. Lowering dietary RUP level while supplementing the highly digestible RUP source with rumen escape sources of Met resulted in similar milk production, maximal milk fat and protein concentration and maximum N efficiency, indicating that post-ruminal digestibility of RUP and amino acid balance in the small intestine can be more important than total RUP supplementation.