Milk production and nutrient digestibility responses to triglyceride or fatty acid supplements enriched in palmitic acid

J Dairy Sci. 2019 May;102(5):4155-4164. doi: 10.3168/jds.2018-15690. Epub 2019 Mar 14.


The objective of our study was to evaluate the effects of feeding triglyceride and fatty acid (FA) supplements enriched in palmitic acid (PA; C16:0) on production and nutrient digestibility responses of mid-lactation dairy cows. Fifteen Holstein cows (137 ± 49 d in milk) were randomly assigned to a treatment sequence in a 3 × 3 Latin square design. Treatments consisted of a control diet (CON; no added PA) or 1.5% FA added as either a FA supplement (PA-FA) or a triglyceride supplement (PA-TG). The PA supplements replaced soyhulls, and diets were balanced for glycerol content. Periods were 21 d in length with sample and data collection occurring during the final 5 d. Compared with CON, PA treatments increased dry matter (66.5 vs. 63.9%) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) apparent digestibility (42.0 vs. 38.2%). Although PA treatments tended to increase 18-carbon FA apparent digestibility (79.1 vs. 77.9%), PA treatments decreased 16-carbon (63.1 vs. 75.8%) and total FA (72.0 vs. 76.5%) apparent digestibilities compared with CON. The PA treatments increased milk fat content (3.60 vs. 3.41%), milk fat yield (1.70 vs. 1.60 kg/d), yield of 16-carbon milk FA (570 vs. 471 g/d), 3.5% fat-corrected milk (47.6 vs. 46.5 kg/d), and energy-corrected milk (47.4 vs. 46.6 kg/d) compared with CON. The PA treatments did not affect dry matter intake (28.5 vs. 29.2 kg/d), milk yield (47.0 vs. 47.4 kg/d), milk protein yield (1.42 vs. 1.45 kg/d), milk lactose yield (2.29 vs. 2.31 kg/d), yield of <16-carbon milk FA (360 vs. 370 g/d), yield of >16-carbon milk FA (642 vs. 630 g/d), body weight (720 vs. 723 kg), or body condition score (3.14 vs. 3.23). We did not observe differences in digestibilities of dry matter, NDF, and 18-carbon FA between PA-TG and PA-FA. In contrast, PA-FA increased 16-carbon (68.6 vs. 57.6%) and total FA apparent digestibility (73.8 vs. 70.1%) compared with PA-TG. This resulted in PA-FA supplementation increasing the apparent digestibility of the PA supplement by ∼10 percentage points compared with PA-TG. Compared with PA-TG, PA-FA increased 16-carbon FA intake by 60 g/d, absorbed 16-carbon FA by 86 g/d, and absorbed total FA by 85 g/d. Compared with PA-TG, PA-FA increased dry matter intake (29.1 vs. 27.8 kg/d), yield of 16-carbon milk FA (596 vs. 545 g/d), and tended to increase milk yield (47.6 vs. 46.4 kg/d), milk fat yield (1.70 vs. 1.66 kg/d), and 3.5% fat-corrected milk (48.1 vs. 47.2 kg/d). In conclusion, the production response of dairy cows to PA tended to be greater for a FA supplement compared with a triglyceride supplement. Overall, PA increased NDF digestibility, milk fat yield, energy-corrected milk, and feed efficiency in mid-lactation dairy cows.

Keywords: dairy cow; digestibility; palmitic acid; triglyceride.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed* / analysis
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Cattle*
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Digestion
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Lactation
  • Lactose / metabolism
  • Milk
  • Milk Proteins / metabolism
  • Nutrients / metabolism
  • Palmitic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Palmitic Acid / metabolism
  • Palmitic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Triglycerides / administration & dosage
  • Triglycerides / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / pharmacology*


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids
  • Milk Proteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Palmitic Acid
  • Lactose