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Potentials to differentiate milk composition by different feeding strategies

Lookup NU author(s): Gillian Butler, Professor Carlo Leifert


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To investigate the effect of the dietary intake of the cow on milk composition, bulk-tank milk was collected on 5 occasions from conventional (n = 15) and organic (n = 10) farms in Denmark and on 4 occasions from low-input nonorganic farms in the United Kingdom, along with management and production parameters. Production of milk based on feeding a high intake of cereals, pasture, and grass silage resulted in milk with a high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (9.4 +/- 0.2 mg/kg of fatty acids), polyunsaturated fatty acids (3.66 +/- 0.07 mg/kg of fatty acids), and natural stereoisomer of alpha-tocopherol (RRR-alpha-tocopherol, 18.6 +/- 0.5 mg/kg of milk fat). A milk production system using a high proportion of maize silage, by-products, and commercial concentrate mix was associated with milk with high concentrations of linoleic acid (LA; 19.7 +/- 0.4 g/kg of fatty acids), monounsaturated fatty acids (27.5 +/- 0.3 mg/kg of fatty acids), and a high ratio between LA and alpha-linolenic acid (4.7 +/- 0.2). Comparing these 2 production systems with a very extensive nonorganic milk production system relying on pasture as almost the sole feed (95 +/- 4% dry matter intake), it was found that the concentrations of conjugated LA (cis-9, trans-11; 17.5 +/- 0.7 g/kg of fatty acids), trans-11-vaccenic acid (37 +/- 2 g/kg of fatty acids), and monounsaturated fatty acids (30.4 +/- 0.6 g/kg of fatty acids) were higher in the extensively produced milk together with the concentration of antioxidants; total alpha-tocopherol (32.0 +/- 0.8 mg/kg of milk fat), RRR-alpha-tocopherol (30.2 +/- 0.8 mg/kg of milk fat), and beta-carotene (9.3 +/- 0.5 mg/kg of milk fat) compared with the organic and conventional milk. Moreover, the concentration of LA (9.2 +/- 0.7 g/kg of fatty acids) in milk from the extensive milk production system was found to approach the recommended unity ratio between n-6 and n-3, although extensive milk production also resulted in a lower daily milk yield.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Slots T, Butler G, Leifert C, Kristensen T, Skibsted LH, Nielsen JH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Dairy Science

Year: 2009

Volume: 92

Issue: 5

Pages: 2057-2066

ISSN (print): 0022-0302

ISSN (electronic): 1525-3198

Publisher: American Dairy Science Association


DOI: 10.3168/jds.2008-1392


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Funder referenceFunder name
FP6-FOOD-CT-2003-506358European Community