Unique fat increases milk from forage & reduces heat stress impact

Feeding dairy cows a combination of palmitic (C16:0) and oleic acid (C18:1) could help stretch out forage stocks and also boost performance during periods of heat stress.

With the dry start to the season resulting in tight forage stocks on some farms, Mole Valley Farmers nutritionist, Laura Quinn said feeding a specialist, combination fat could help.

Ms Quinn said: “Research from Michigan State University showed that feeding a combination of palmitic and oleic acid resulted in about a 60g increase in fibre digestion per cow per day.

“It’s likely that this improvement in fibre digestion is caused by increased growth of fibre digesting bugs in the rumen thanks to the palmitic acid. This improvement in fibre digestibility will ultimately result in more milk from forage.”

Following a challenging growing season in the USA’s mid-west, Dr Adam Lock of Michigan State University undertook a study at the end of 2019 looking at the role of fatty acids in low forage diets.

Forage levels were reduced by almost half, whilst forage NDF (Neutral Detergent Fibre) was dropped from 18-20% to 11%. The gap was made up with higher levels of feeds like beet pulp and soya hulls plus amino acids and palmitic and oleic fatty acid supplementation.

Ms Quinn added: “Cows on the low forage diet ate 18% less dry matter, but gave 1.9kg more energy corrected milk per day and more milk fat and protein. That’s likely due to better NDF digestibility from the palmitic acid and improved fatty acid digestibility thanks to the oleic acid.

“This trial work was obviously carried out on extremely low levels of forage under research conditions, however it does show that in a low forage scenario, fatty acids can have a positive impact on fibre digestion and help farmers get more from every mouthful of fibre fed.”

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