What to Do with Your Milk Fatty Acid Analysis
By Mac Campbell, East Coast Tech Manager
You got your milk fatty acid analysis back from the lab… now what? A milk fatty acid analysis is exactly what it sounds like – an analysis of the types of fatty acids found in milk, which are de novo, preformed, and mixed.
Still, how can you gain all the benefits of your analysis and understand what your next management decisions should be? Follow these four steps our Cargill Tech Team uses for analyzing your results.
Step 1: Confirm that you have quality data. Cargill uses internal mathematical checks to ensure that the analysis is accurate. In simpler terms, we clarify the fatty acids sum is equal to the total fat. If samples fall outside the acceptable ranges, which may indicate a problem with sampling like no preservative pill, old samples, extreme shaking, or warm/frozen samples, should not be used.
Step 2: Check variation in sample results. I recommend taking samples for at least 3 to 5 days in a row, and at the same time each day. This averages out day-to-day variations that are common on any dairy. If you have multiple tanks on farm, or inconsistent number and type of milking’s going into the tank, increasing the number of samples taken can help level out some of this variation as well.
Also comparing results across multiple days helps identify issues going on in the environment (i.e., TMR mixing, sorting, running out of feed, or not pushing up). Based on benchmarking Cargill has done across Pennsylvania herds; we suggest reviewing your standard deviation across sampling days with these benchmarks:
< 0.05% = Good consistency, low environmental influence
0.05 – 0.1% = Moderate variation, some adjustments needed
> 0.1% = Excessive variation, significant environmental influence that needs addressed
Step 3: Evaluate unsaturation (double bonds index only included with Delta machine results). Even though this is unique to the Delta machine analysis, I am making note of it because fixing this issue is one of the fastest ways a dairy can improve their milk fat percent. If you have an overload of unsaturated fat, the fastest way to fix it is to remove unsaturated fat(s) from the diet. Common feedstuffs high in unsaturated fat include roasted soybeans, distillers’ grains, chocolate byproducts, cottonseed, and hominy. While not as common, corn silages can also contribute excess levels of unsaturated fat through high linoleic (18:2) contents. Cows normally respond to this diet change within days. Cargill farms show that even small improvements in the double bond index can improve de novo synthesis, particularly for herds trying to get that next tenth.
Step 4: Focus on de novo synthesis, then preformed and mixed. Improving your de novo fatty acid synthesis has the biggest impact because it means improving fermentation and rumen health. More benefits include improved mixed synthesis and increased milk protein. However, that doesn’t mean the mixed or preformed fractions should be overlooked. If mixed and preform are low, this may involve removing or lowering Monensin, identifying starch implications for insulin response, or supplementing a type of bypass fat.
Reach out to our team here to learn more about milk fatty acid analysis or if you’d like to start testing your herd. If you’re interested in understanding more about milk fatty acid analysis you can also check out our blog Milk Fatty Acid Analysis: Status Update for Field Application.