Full Paper

Effect of fish oil on ruminal biohydrogenation of C18 unsaturated fatty acids in steers fed grass or red clover silages

M. R. F. Leea1 c1, K. J. Shingfielda2, J. K. S. Tweeda1, V. Toivonena2, S. A. Huwsa1 and N. D. Scollana1

a1 Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Gogerddan, Aberystwyth SY23 3EB, UK

a2 MTT Agrifood Research, Animal Production Research, Jokioinen, FIN 31600, Finland


Red clover and fish oil (FO) are known to alter ruminal lipid biohydrogenation leading to an increase in the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content of ruminant-derived foods, respectively. The potential to exploit these beneficial effects were examined using eight Hereford × Friesian steers fitted with rumen and duodenal cannulae. Treatments consisted of grass silage or red clover silage fed at 90% of ad libitum intake and FO supplementation at 0, 10, 20 or 30 g/kg diet dry matter (DM). The experiment was conducted with two animals per FO level and treatments formed extra-period Latin squares. Flows of fatty acids at the duodenum were assessed using ytterbium acetate and chromium ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid as indigestible markers. Intakes of DM were higher (P < 0.001) for red clover silage than grass silage (5.98 v. 5.09 kg/day). There was a linear interaction effect (P = 0.004) to FO with a reduction in DM intake in steers fed red clover silage supplemented with 30 g FO/kg diet DM. Apparent ruminal biohydrogenation of C18:2n-6 and C18:3n-3 were lower (P < 0.001) for red clover silage than grass silage (0.83 and 0.79 v. 0.87 and 0.87, respectively), whilst FO increased the extent of biohydrogenation on both diets. Ruminal biohydrogenation of C20:5n-3 and C22:6n-3 was extensive on both silage diets, averaging 0.94 and 0.97, respectively. Inclusion of FO in the diet enhanced the flow of total CLA leaving the rumen with an average across silages of 0.22, 0.31, 0.41 and 0.44 g/day for 0, 10, 20 or 30 g FO/kg, respectively, with a linear interaction effect between the two silages (P = 0.03). FO also showed a dose-dependent increase in the flow of trans-C18:1 intermediates at the duodenum from 4.6 to 15.0 g/day on grass silage and from 9.4 to 22.5 g/day for red clover silage. Concentrations of trans-C18:1 with double bonds from Δ4–16 in duodenal digesta were all elevated in response to FO in both diets, with trans-11 being the predominant isomer. FO inhibited the complete biohydrogenation of dietary PUFA on both diets, whilst red clover increased the flow of C18:2n-6 and C18:3n-3 compared with grass silage. In conclusion, supplementing red clover silage-based diets with FO represents a novel nutritional strategy for enhancing the concentrations of beneficial fatty acids in ruminant milk and meat.

(Received January 10 2008)

(Accepted June 13 2008)


c1 E-mail: michael.lee@bbsrc.ac.uk