Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition recently launched a campaign, “C16 + C18: Cows Need Both.” This campaign stems from new research confirming that the physiology of dairy cows prefers a balanced combination of palmitic acid (C16:0) and stearic acid (C18:0) for optimum milk production and overall performance.
“Dry inert fat supplements have been fed for decades to improve a cow’s energy intake,” says Dr. Jim Loften, director of technical services, Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition (MSGAN). “These inert fat supplements contain primarily palmitic and stearic acids that have specific properties and functions.”
According to Loften, some nutritionists recently began feeding a high palmitic acid fat supplement to increase milk fat percentage. “Many saw the increases they were looking for, however, after four to six months, they noticed cows began to lose body condition and in some cases, milk yield as well,” adds Loften.
Previous published research trials that fed high-palm (greater than 80%) dry fat supplements used experimental periods of only 14 to 35 days. “These trials were too short term to reveal problems that may arise during continued feeding of an unbalanced supplement,” states Loften. “Three of the published trials showed significant reductions in dry matter intake. This decrease eventually led to reductions in body weight and condition on many dairies, plus the decrease helped to explain the drop in milk yield. These results could not be observed in short-term studies.”
Loften, along with Dr. Jim Drackley, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois; Dr. Tom Jenkins, Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Clemson University; Dr. Al Kertz, Andhil LLC; and Dr. Jim Linn and Dr. Chuck Soderholm from MSGAN, reviewed the long-term science to better understand the metabolism and utilization of palmitic and stearic fatty acids and how they interact. They concluded that palmitic and stearic acids are critical to milk production and performance. Published research shows that when palmitic acid levels in milk increase, stearic acid is reduced to compensate, and vice versa. A dairy cow’s natural metabolism is constantly adjusting to create a “sweet spot” balance of fatty acids in its body and milk. Previous studies of fatty acid supplements have missed this tendency to rebalance, as well as the complexity of bioconversion and synthesis that happens within the rumen, small intestine and mammary tissue. New research now reveals these theory-changing facts.
“Loading the cannon with either all palmitic acid or all stearic acid interrupts the cow’s natural synthesis of milk fat,” adds Loften. “Research trials now prove cows prefer a balanced approach of feeding a fat supplement that mimics her own milk fat composition.”