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J Dairy Sci. 2017 Mar;100(3):1766-1779. doi: 10.3168/jds.2016-11500. Epub 2017 Jan 11.

The effects of adding fat to diets of lactating dairy cows on total-tract neutral detergent fiber digestibility: A meta-analysis.

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Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison 53706.
Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison 53706. Electronic address:


The objective of this meta-analysis was to determine the effects of supplemental fat on fiber digestibility in lactating dairy cattle. Published papers that evaluated the effects of adding fat to the diets of lactating dairy cattle on total-tract neutral detergent fiber digestibility (ttNDFd) and dry matter intake (DMI) were compiled. The final data set included 108 fat-supplemented treatment means, not including low-fat controls, from 38 publications. The fat-supplemented treatment means exhibited a wide range of ttNDFd (49.4% ± 9.3, mean ± standard deviation) and DMI (21.3 kg/d ± 3.5). Observations were summarized as the difference between the treatment means for fat-supplemented diets minus their respective low-fat control means. Additionally, those differences were divided by the difference in diet fatty acid (FA) concentration between the treatment and control diets. Treatment means were categorized by the type of fat supplement. Supplementing 3% FA in the diet as medium-chain fats (containing predominately 12- and 14-carbon saturated FA) or unsaturated vegetable oil decreased ttNDFd by 8.0 and 1.2 percentage units, respectively. Adding 3% calcium salts of long-chain FA or saturated fats increased ttNDFd by 3.2 and 1.3 percentage units, respectively. No other fat supplement type affected ttNDFd. Except for saturated fats and animal-vegetable fats, supplementing dietary fat decreased DMI. When the values for changes in ttNDFd are regressed on changes in DMI there was a positive relationship, though the coefficient of determination is only 0.20. When changes in ttNDFd were regressed on changes in DMI, within individual fat supplement types, there was no relationship within calcium salt supplements. There was a positive relationship between changes in ttNDFd and changes in DMI for saturated fats. Neither relationship suggested that the increased ttNDFd with calcium salts or saturated FA was due to decreased DMI for these fat sources. A subset of the means included measured ruminal neutral detergent fiber digestion. Analysis of this smaller data set did not suggest that ruminal neutral detergent fiber digestibility is depressed by fat supplementation more than ttNDFd. Adding fats, other than those with medium-chain FA, consistently increased digestible energy density of the diet. However, due to reduced DMI, this increased energy density may not result in increased digestible nutrient intake.


DMI; NDF digestibility; dairy cow; dietary fat

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