How fatty acids can boost your milk margins

'There are over 400 fatty acids in milk, but our improved understanding of the role of a handful of diet fatty acids such as C16:0, C18:1 and C18:3 allow us to further improve cow performance very cost effectively, ' Dr Richard Kirkland told the Volac Wilmar seminar in Armagh City.
'There are over 400 fatty acids in milk, but our improved understanding of the role of a handful of diet fatty acids such as C16:0, C18:1 and C18:3 allow us to further improve cow performance very cost effectively, ' Dr Richard Kirkland told the Volac Wilmar seminar in Armagh City.

Individual fatty acids have now been identified with a major positive impact on returns from dairy farming.

This was the good news at a ‘Transitioning from Fats to Fatty Acids’ seminar in Armagh as farmers face into a second winter with rising concerns over silage quantity and quality.

“For a generation, 35 years, progressive producers have used Megalac rumen-protected fat as a source of energy in their dairy rations,” noted Dr Richard Kirkland of event organisers Volac Wilmar.

“But we know now that fat is much more than a valuable energy source with 2.5 times the ME of cereals. Researchers such as Prof Adam Lock at Michigan State University, USA, have identified the role of individual fatty acids in improving cow performance.

“This ground breaking work has helped Volac Wilmar extend the Megalac range of rumen-protected fats to enable farmers and their nutritional advisers to amend diets to suit individual farm circumstances, be it early, mid or late lactation or indeed particular herd problems such as low fertility.

“There are over 400 fatty acids in milk, but only a handful of diet fatty acids, such as C16:0, C18:1 and C18:3, allow us to improve milk output and composition, fertility, herd health and even dairy farming’s impact on the environment.”

A theme taken up by Dr John Newbold, head of Volac Animal Nutrition technical department.

“It has been proven that not only does the fatty acid C16:0, Palmitic Fatty Acid, boost milk fat %, but it also favours partitioning of nutrients towards milk production rather than the cow’s body tissue fat stores. By contrast highly digestible C18:1, Oleic Fatty Acid, relative to C16:0 can favour partitioning of nutrients towards body tissue reserves to increase body condition scores. And of course it was already understood that C18.3, Linolenic Fatty Acid, has a role in protecting embryo survival.

“One of the more exciting aspects of our increased knowledge of fatty acids is how the ratio of these to each other in the dairy diet offers exciting opportunities for extra herd income.

“By applying recent major advances in our understanding of how fatty acids work in the bovine digestive system farm businesses can gain extra yield and a higher milk fat % plus enhance calving indexes. Megalac of course having been shown in farm trials as far back as 1992 to reduce the average calving index by 9.4 days.

“Now the new, eight strong Megalac range uses the ratio of key fatty acids to match the needs of the cow at various stages of her lactation and at drying off.”

Dr Newbold then looked at the practicalities of managing the ratio of C16:0 to C18:1 fatty acids in different types of herd management situations.

He recommended that the Megalac formulation containing higher levels of the body condition improving C18:1 fatty acid should be used in the early lactation period, while the higher C16:0 Mega-Fat 88 or Mega-Fat Extra products should be used in mid lactation to drive nutrients towards milk and milk fat production.

Mega-Flax, containing Megalac with a source of omega-3 fatty acids could be considered for autumn calvers or year round TMR users due to lack of omega-3 fatty acids from fresh pasture.

Continuing the debate Dr Newbold looked at the excellent financial return on well planned use of the Megalac range to produce those valuable marginal extra litres.

“The extra milk produced has a lot more value than the extra input costs of using the right fatty acids at the right time.”

In summary his colleague from Dungannon, Dr Richard Kirkland, emphasised again that fat is much more than an energy source.

“We must think of the fatty acid profile of the supplements being added to the dairy herd diet. Currently the roles of fatty acids C16:0, C18:1 and C18:3 are best understood as regards major benefits to herd performance.

“At Volac Wilmar our aim is to apply the growing body of research results on fatty acids to our Megalac range. Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients, a joint global venture between Volac and Wilmar, gives farmers access to feed fat ingredients used in cattle, sheep, pig and poultry diets.”

For further information e mail enquiries@volacwilmar.com , browse www.megalac.com or in Northern Ireland contact distributors Devenish Nutrition tel; (028) 9075 5566.