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First-in-the-nation co-op to adopt fatty acid analysis

Progressive Dairyman Editor Dave Natzke Published on 11 March 2016

St. Albans Cooperative Creamery is the first dairy cooperative in the nation to provide new information to dairy producer members regarding the fatty acids making up the milkfat in their cows’ milk. The information will enable producers to improve the way they feed and manage their cows, and potentially earn higher milkfat and protein component premiums.

Melissa Woolpert, a graduate student with Miner Institute, Chazy, New York, and Dr. Dave Barbano, a researcher with Cornell University, presented information to St. Albans’ members during the co-op’s annual meeting, Feb. 13.

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Field study conducted

St. Albans, in collaboration with Cornell University, Delta Instruments, the University of Vermont and Miner Institute, identified a positive correlation between a group of fatty acids (called de novo fatty acids) and milkfat and protein content.

De novo fatty acids are synthesized in the cow’s udder using the end products of rumen fermentation, acetate and butyrate. Factors affecting rumen fermentation conditions drive de novo fatty acid synthesis.

In an attempt to understand management strategies and dietary factors affecting de novo synthesis, researchers studied 84 farms in 2014 and 2015. Of participating farms, half had high de novo fatty acids in their bulk tank milk, with the other half having low levels.

Field study results

Study results indicated cows with optimal rumen fermentation conditions will produce more de novo fatty acids and higher milkfat and protein.

According to the research, management practices on the high de novo farms were:

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  • 10 times more likely to provide at least 18 inches of bunk space per cow

  • Five times more likely to be at or below 110 percent stall stocking density

  • 10 times more likely to feed a TMR with a physically effective neutral detergent fiber of at least 21 percent of dry matter

  • Freestall operations were five times more likely to feed twice a day

  • Tiestall operations (many of which were component-fed) were 11 times more likely to feed at least five times a day

Management practices on low de novo farms were:

  • 10 times more likely to push up the feed at least five times per day (an unexpected finding, but may be because they fed the cows less frequently)

  • Eight times more likely to be feeding rumen inert (bypass) fat

Communicating test results

“St. Albans views this new information as a win-win for both our dairy farmers and their plant operation,” Tom Gates, relations manager with St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, said. “If we can provide additional information that will help our farmers produce higher butterfat and protein, our producers will receive more money based on their additional milk components, and the cooperative’s plant will be able to generate more cream with higher-component milk.

“Producer milk will be tested regularly every time we run the standard butterfat and protein testing, in many cases on nearly every milk pickup,” Gates said.

The test results will be provided at no additional cost and are accessible through the members’ portal on the St. Albans website or via email directly to the producer and his or her nutritionist on a daily basis.  PD

Founded in 1919, St. Albans is a member-governed dairy cooperative marketing more than 3 million pounds of milk per day from about 370 farms located in Vermont, northeastern New York and New Hampshire.

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