High proportions of forage in diets fed to dairy cows are interesting options in conventional production, and mandatory in organic dairy farming (e.g., within the European Union). The objectives of the present study were to study the milk fatty acid (FA) profiles, with particular focus on the odd- and branched-chain FA (OBCFA) and their association with diet composition, using 3 different proportions of grass silage in the diet. The OBCFA profiles in milk have been suggested to be potential markers to assess nutrient supply to the cows. The study included data from 24 cows in 2008 and 26 cows in 2009, using pooled milk samples from morning and evening milking within 24 h. The 3 diets were composed of the same feeds: grass silage and grain-based concentrate, but the silage component was fed in different proportions, namely 50, 70, and 85% of total dry matter intake. The cows were in late lactation, with a mean of 220 (SD=15) days in milk in 2008, and 216 (SD=35) days in milk in 2009, at the onset of the trial. Increased proportions of grass silage in the diet increased the intake of C18:3n-3, and decreased the intake of C18:2n-6 and intake of total FA. The daily intake of C18:3n-3 and C18:2n-6 was reflected in a similar increase in milk C18:3n-3, whereas the concentration of milk C18:2n-6 decreased with increasing proportion of grass silage in the diet. Increased proportions of grass silage in the diet increased the concentration of conjugated linoleic acid and the linear odd-chain FA C15:0 and C17:0, the branched-chain iso C15:0 and total OBCFA in milk. The concentration of total OBCFA in milk was shown to be positively correlated with dietary content of neutral detergent fiber. This suggests that the concentration of milk OBCFA may be useful in the future to indicate low forage intake in cows under conditions when it is not possible to measure individual forage intake.
Copyright © 2013 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.