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J Dairy Sci. 2011 Jan;94(1):382-95. doi: 10.3168/jds.2010-3508.

Effects of lauric and myristic acids on ruminal fermentation, production, and milk fatty acid composition in lactating dairy cows.

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Department of Dairy and Animal Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


The objectives of this experiment were to investigate the effects of lauric (LA) and myristic (MA) acids on ruminal fermentation, production, and milk fatty acid (FA) profile in lactating dairy cows and to identify the FA responsible for the methanogen-suppressing effect of coconut oil. The experiment was conducted as a replicated 3×3 Latin square. Six ruminally cannulated cows (95±26.4 DIM) were subjected to the following treatments: 240 g/cow per day each of stearic acid (SA, control), LA, or MA. Experimental periods were 28 d and cows were refaunated between periods. Lauric acid reduced protozoal counts in the rumen by 96%, as well as acetate, total VFA, and microbial N outflow from the rumen, compared with SA and MA. Ruminal methane production was not affected by treatment. Dry matter intake was reduced 35% by LA compared with SA and MA, which resulted in decreased milk yield. Milk fat content also was depressed by LA compared with SA and MA. Treatment had no effect on milk protein content. All treatments increased milk concentration of the respective treatment FA. Concentration of C12:0 was more than doubled by LA, and C14:0 was increased (45%) by MA compared with SA. Concentration of milk FA<C16 was 20% lower for LA than MA. Concentrations of trans 18:1 FA (except trans 12) and CLA isomers were increased by LA compared with SA and MA. Overall, the concentrations of saturated FA in milk fat were reduced, and that of >C16 FA and MUFA were increased, by LA compared with the other treatments. In this study, LA had profound effects on ruminal fermentation, mediated through inhibited microbial populations, and decreased DMI, milk yield, and milk fat content. Despite the significant decrease in protozoal counts, however, LA had no effect on ruminal methane production. Thus, the antimethanogenic effect of coconut oil, observed in related studies, is likely due to total FA application level, the additive effect of LA and MA, or a combination of both. Both LA and MA modified milk FA profile significantly.

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