Milk Fatty Acid Analysis: Status Update for Field Application
By Mac Campbell, East Coast Tech Manager
A milk fatty acid analysis teases a part the milk fat into its three groups of milk fatty acids (MFAs): De novo, Preformed, and Mixed (see sidebar). With greater access and adoption of MIR technology in the field, and the use of milk fatty acid analyses by consultants and dairy farmers, we can fine tune our question to: “Which group of milk fatty acids is holding us back?”
Usage and Type
Milk fatty acid testing has been heavily utilized on the East Coast, in part due to its development originating at Cornell University and the Miner Institute. Still, there are third-party testing labs providing milk fatty acid analysis across the country including California, New Mexico, Minnesota, and New York, allowing for greater access nationwide. In more recent years, DHIA labs, payment testing labs, as well as certain milk co-ops have acquired new MIR machines or access to fatty acid testing and are providing this analysis regularly to its producers.
In addition to availability, it is important to identify and distinguish the two machines on the market that perform milk fatty acid analysis testing, Delta and FOSS machines. While consistency and quality between these brands look good in recent months, milk fatty acid models between types or sometimes within type can differ. So, it can be hard to compare results across machines or even parts of the country.
What does it cost?
Some payment testing facilities or co-ops are offering this service free for their customers on every tanker load. Others, including DHIA groups, are offering this service at an additional cost. If neither of these options are available, you can utilize third-party labs to send sampling in for testing. Cost of a milk fatty acid analysis is between $2 and $5 per sample. However, the hidden cost of third-party testing lies with overnight shipping fees. Samples cannot get warm or freeze before testing and must be chilled immediately following collection. If samples freeze or warm upon arrival, the labs will typically notify you in the results and this data should not be used.
What does the future of testing and data look like?
If we consider the next 5 to 10 years, I believe that large dairies will look to incorporate these machines on farm for daily individual cow testing. Labs and researchers across the globe are creating models based on these groups to predict health biomarkers and provide another diagnostic tool to improve animal health.
We’ve also seen use of this data cross over into nutritional modeling as well. Cargill is currently working on adding milk fatty acid prediction models into its MAX™ System for Dairy, allowing nutritionists to better predict ration effects on milk fat and adjust feeding strategies to improve each fatty acid group.
Reach out to me and my team at Contact Us - Cargill Dairy Dreams to learn more about milk fatty acid analysis or if you’d like to start testing your herd.
Read the full article published in Progressive Dairy here.