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J Dairy Sci. 2009 Apr;92(4):1469-78. doi: 10.3168/jds.2008-1468.

Effect of lactation stage and energy status on milk fat composition of Holstein-Friesian cows.

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Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, the Netherlands.


The effects of lactation stage, negative energy balance (NEB), and milk fat depression (MFD) were estimated on detailed milk fat composition in primiparous Holstein-Friesian cows. One morning milk sample was collected from each of 1,933 cows from 398 commercial Dutch herds in winter 2005. Milk fat composition was measured using gas chromatography, and fat and protein percentage were measured using infrared spectrometry. Each fatty acid changed 0.5 to 1 phenotypic standard deviation over lactation, except odd-chain C5:0 to C15:0, branched-chain fatty acids, and trans-10, cis-12 conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). The greatest change was an increase from 31.2 to 33.3% (wt/wt) for C16:0 from d 80 to 150 of lactation. Energy status was estimated for each cow as the deviation from each average lactation fat-to-protein ratio (FPdev). A high FPdev (>0.12) indicated NEB. Negative energy balance was associated with an increase in C16:0 (0.696 +/- 0.178) and C18:0 (0.467 +/- 0.093), which suggested mobilization of body fat reserves. Furthermore, NEB was associated with a decrease in odd-chain C5:0 to C15:0 (-0.084 +/- 0.020), which might reflect a reduced allocation of C3 components to milk fat synthesis. A low FPdev indicated MFD (<-0.12) and was associated with a decrease in C16:0 (-0.681 +/- 0.255) and C18:0 (-0.128 +/- 0.135) and an increase in total unsaturated fatty acids (0.523 +/- 0.227). The study showed that both lactation stage and energy balance significantly contribute to variation in milk fat composition and alter the activity of different fatty acid pathways.

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