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J Dairy Sci. 2008 Jul;91(7):2715-25. doi: 10.3168/jds.2007-0857.

Effects of clover-grass silages and concentrate supplementation on the content of phytoestrogens in dairy cow milk.

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Organic Food and Farming Division, Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, Tingvoll gard, N-6630 Tingvoll, Norway.


A 2 x 2 factorial continuous experiment was conducted with 28 Norwegian Red dairy cows in early lactation to compare milk content of phytoestrogens when feeding ad libitum white clover (WCS) or red clover (RCS) grass silages prepared from the second and third cut without and with 10 kg/d supplementation of a standard concentrate. The cows were offered either RCS or WCS for 88 d (period 1) and thereafter a mixed red clover-white clover-grass silage for 48 d (period 2). Total dry matter intake and milk yield were not affected by forage type but increased with concentrate supplementation. Intake of isoflavones was several times greater in RCS than in WCS, whereas intake of lignans was greater in WCS. Concentrate supplementation reduced the intake of most phytoestrogens. Compared with WCS, RCS diets yielded milk with a greater content of flavonoids, whereas milk from WCS diets had greater contents of the mammalian lignans enterodiol and enterolactone. The content of the isoflavan equol was particularly high in RCS diets. There was no apparent carryover effect of clover type on milk phytoestrogen content because there was no difference in content between the silage treatments 3 wk after the cows were transferred to the same silage diet (period 2). Concentrate supplementation reduced the milk contents of the flavonoids equol, biochanin A, and daidzein and increased the content of mammalian lignans. The effects of silage type and concentrate supplementation on milk contents of the individual phytoestrogens were related to the intake of the compound or its precursor, except for the effect of concentrate on mammalian lignans, for which the intake of the known precursors was also reduced. Overall, this study shows that feeding cows with silage containing red clover increases the milk content of flavonoids at both low and high concentrate supplementation levels, and decreases the content of nonflavonoids such as mammalian lignans, when compared with silage containing white clover. The increased content of phytoestrogens in milk may be important when the health benefits of milk are studied.

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