a1 Animal Science Research Group, Department of Agriculture, The University of Reading, Earley Gate, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AR, UK
a2 MTT Agrifood Research, Animal Production Research, FIN-31600 Jokioinen, Finland
Even though extensive research has examined the role of nutrition on milk fat composition, there is less information on the impact of forages on milk fatty acid (FA) composition. In the current study, the effect of replacing grass silage (GS) with maize silage (MS) as part of a total mixed ration on animal performance and milk FA composition was examined using eight multiparous mid-lactation cows in a replicated 4 × 4 Latin square with 28-day experimental periods. Four treatments comprised the stepwise replacement of GS with MS (0, 160, 334 and 500 g/kg dry matter (DM)) in diets containing a 54 : 46 forage : concentrate ratio on a DM basis. Replacing GS with MS increased (P < 0.001) the DM intake, milk yield and milk protein content. Incremental replacement of GS with MS in the diet enhanced linearly (P < 0.001) the proportions of 6:0–14:0, decreased (P < 0.01) the 16:0 concentrations, but had no effect on the total milk fat saturated fatty acid content. Inclusion of MS altered the distribution of trans-18:1 isomers and enhanced (P < 0.05) total trans monounsaturated fatty acid and total conjugated linoleic acid content. Milk total n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content decreased with higher amounts of MS in the diet and n-6 PUFA concentration increased, leading to an elevated n-6 : n-3 PUFA ratio. Despite some beneficial changes associated with the replacement of GS with MS, the overall effects on milk FA composition would not be expected to substantially improve long-term human health. However, the role of forages on milk fat composition must also be balanced against the increases in total milk and protein yield on diets containing higher proportions of MS.
(Received March 31 2008)
(Accepted July 16 2008)