Reducing SFAs to Improve Human and Cow Health

Speaking at the British Cattle Breeders Conference, Ben Bartlett from the National Milk Laboratories in the UK, explains the benefits of analysing saturated fatty acids in milk, not only to improve consumer health, but also cow health. Charlotte Johnston, TheCattleSite editor reports.
calendar icon 31 January 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

Not only does a reduction in SFA help improve human health, it can have an effect on cow health. Analysing milk in greater detail can help gain greater information on cow performance.

Mr Bartlett said that in terms of opportunities for improvement in the UK dairy herd the potential is considerable.

He highlighted increasing pressures on dairy producers including increasing feed, fuel and labour costs, environmental and disease concerns.

With this in mind it is important for producers to look at adding value onto their product, and also look at reducing costs of production.

Research in Belgium has explored genetic data to establish the extent to which genetics control the fatty acid profile in milk.

The study showed a strong element of heritability in determining fatty acid profiles, with some fatty acids being under stronger genetic control than the control determined by the diet and body fat mobilisation.

This heritability will not only affect the milk but also beef from the dairy herd.

Other than genetics, producers could focus on breeding cows that respond better to diets designed to adjust fatty acid profiles, suggests Mr Bartlett.

Use of mid-Infra Red to analyse milk

Trials using mid-Infra Red began in 2009 by the National Milk Laboratories.

Testing began with bulk milk samples and to date has shown that levels of SFAs in milk dip in the summer months due to an increase in grass intake.

Fresh grass contains high levels of unsaturated fats.

Tests have also shown that there is a wide range of SFAs levels across the industry. For 2011 the average was 69 per cent, however in extreme herds it was under 57 per cent, and in some over 80 per cent.

Preliminary results have shown that some cows can be seen to producing fat of over 5.5 per cent, with SFA results below 60 per cent, whereas other herds are showing much lower fat results with SFAs that are well over 70 per cent.

Mr Bartlett said that ongoing research needs to look at why and how some herds are performing well. What affects the fat/ saturated fatty acid ratio and what role do other factors including health and productivity play?

One project is pooling together information on mid-infra red analysis of milk samples from various EU research centres, alongside phenotypic data with the objective of delivering new decision tools relating to fertility, health, feeding and the environment .

Concluding, Mr Bartlett said that the UK industry needs to get onboard and use the tools available to improve the industry.

Detailed analysis of milk has the potential to deliver additional benefits in terms of cow health and productivity, and will also strengthen the credentials of dairy products within the human diet.

January 2012

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