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Fatty acids – essential fats for a healthy, balanced diet for animals

Like proteins and carbohydrates, fats are one of the essential nutrients used in animal feed. The use of fat supplements, together with vitamins and minerals for ruminants, swine, and poultry rations are common to increase energy sources 1. Fats are also indispensable nutrients for forming cell membranes and bacteria―they are involved in the synthesis of hormones and vitamins.

In recent years, scientific progress has provided us with a great deal of knowledge about how different fats behave depending on their composition in ruminant animals. It varies both at the rumen and gut level; it also affects lactation time and milk yield.

Fats have gone from being used only as a concentrated source of energy to being used for a very specific purpose such as increasing body condition, improving reproductive function, and increasing milk and milk fat production, thanks to the knowledge of the components that shape them.

What are fatty acids?

Fats are mainly composed of triglycerides which are compounds made up of a glycerol molecule linked to fatty acids. A fatty acid is a lipid molecule made up of a chain of carbons linked by single or double bonds. Both the number of carbons and the type of bonds build different fatty acids, which have different properties and different applications. Thus, we have fatty acids for industrial use such as the production of soaps, cosmetics, and lubricants while others make a nutritious and high-energy recipe for animal feed.

When formulating a ruminant animal ration, for example, for dairy cows, we no longer only consider the amount of fat we add. We look closely at its main component, fatty acids since they trigger different responses in dairy cows. Fatty acids such as oleic acid improve body condition in dairy cows and alpha-linoleic acid improves fertility instead. On the other hand, palmitic acid increases milk and milk fat production.

Feeding of dairy cows at a farm.

Why is palmitic acid important in animal feed?

Palmitic acid is naturally present in ruminants’ milk and meat, making it a safe addition to their diets. It is also good and easy to digest, which means it provides a good amount of energy to the animal. Palmitic acid behaves inertly in the rumen so it does not alter the natural ruminal fermentation―where ruminal bacteria are in the common proportion and the feed degradation and digestion of the different ingredients follows the common metabolic pathways. It has a neutral taste and smell that does not affect the intake of dry matter.

There is plenty of scientific literature that supports the use of palmitic acid at high concentrations (98%) in dairy cow rations to increase milk and milk fat production2. Dairy cows have very high nutritional requirements and fat supplements such as palmitic acid in ruminant diets are a good energy source for these animals during lactation.

A dairy cow during its lactation period.

How can GoNutri help farms and farmers?

GoNutri helps farmers with animal nutrition through livestock feed supplements. The two main GoNutri product lines are the Energy and Protect lines. Let’s focus on the Energy line.

GoNutri Energy products contain high amounts of palmitic acid. Its fatty acids make-up is advantageous in providing consistent and predictable results. This way, you know what output to expect, from animal behaviour to level of milk fat. For example, the use of GoNutri Energy 98 (C16:0 to 98%) in dairy cow rations can increase the percentage of fat in milk 3 by approximately 5-8 percent. This represents an added value to the farmer of an estimated 6€ per tonnes of milk delivered.

As we can see, being more precise when feeding animals with fat supplements can greatly improve the production results of farms. Choosing the correct type and right amount of fatty acids in animal feed is not only part of an essential, healthy, and balanced diet but helps yield a high and stable economic return in the long run.

Read more about GoNutri’s product lines here.

Reach out to our animal feed specialist to help you grow your farm here.

About the writer

Pablo Alvarez has a degree in Veterinary Medicine and a master’s in Dairy Cow Nutrition. He has worked in different animal nutrition companies (Iberliquidos; De Heus) and he is currently working at GAR as a technical manager in the area of ruminant feed in Spain.

 

[1] Palmquist, 1994; Rabiee et al., 2012

[2] Matthews, Rico, Sprenkle, Lock, McFadden, JDS 2016; Lock, Presault, Rico, Deland, Alen, JDS 2013

[3] Piantoni, Lock and Allen, Department of Animal Science, Michigan St.

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