By Dr Richard Kirkland,
Volac Global Technical Manager Feed/Fats
THE average dairy cow needs 15 to 20 per cent of her metabolisable energy (ME) to come from fat, making it an essential nutrient and energy source for ruminants. However, ongoing research reveals fat supplementation in dairy rations plays a much larger role than simply fulfilling energy requirements.
There are five major fatty acids in ruminant diets. Based on where a dairy cow is in her lactation cycle, different fatty acids will support different areas of performance. This includes milk yield, milk fat content, body condition score (BCS) and fertility.
Because targeting specific fatty acid requirements is infeasible in a year-round calving system, opting for a multi-purpose fat supplement is the most effective way to optimise the nutritional needs of the entire herd at different stages of lactation.
To effectively improve milk yield, milk fat, fertility and BCS throughout the production cycle, farmers should utilise a multi-purpose fat with an optimum ratio of C16:0 (palmitic acid) to C18:1 (oleic acid). These fatty acids influence partitioning of energy between milk production and body condition.
When offered during mid to late lactation, C16:0 induces insulin resistance in body tissues to increase partitioning of nutrients to milk, which in return improves milk and milk fat production. C18:1 is particularly beneficial in early lactation as it increases insulin, which increases the partitioning of nutrients to improve body condition. The C18:1 fatty acid has also been proven to boost fertility by promoting egg and embryo development and improves digestibility of total diet fat which increases energy supply.
Sourcing the right fat supplement: When feeding a multi-purpose supplement that has been balanced with a compatible fatty acid ratio, a year-round calving herd not only receives its energy requirements but is given the right nutritional building blocks to reach optimum performance. So, when it comes to choosing a one-product solution, stop thinking about fat, and start thinking about fatty acids.