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Variation in the Fatty Acid Composition of Milkfat: Effect of Stage of Lactation

Authors: P.W. Parodi


Variation in the fatty acid composition of milkfat from seven cows was studied throughout a lactation. The cows were from a commercial pure-bred Jersey herd, maintained on a high plane of nutrition.

The C4:0 acid had a maximum value during the first month of lactation, values decreased during succeeding months, reaching a minimum value at the end of lactation. The C6:0 to C14:0 acids all exhibited similar variation, values increased during the first 4 to 8 weeks of lactation, remained relatively constant until the fifth or sixth month, then decreased again until the end of lactation. There was little variation in the C16:0 acid throughout lactation. The C18:0 and C18:1 acid contents were high in early lactation, they decreased until mid-lactation, increasing again to the end of lactation. Changes in the content of C18:2 and C18:3 acids were variable.

It is considered that the increased content of C18 acids with corresponding decreases in C6:0 to C14:0 acids at the end of lactation may be due to decreased energy intake as a result of feeding concentrates according to the level of milk production. Cows at the same stage of lactation exhibited significant differences in their fatty acid composition. Their individual pattern relative to the herd was repeated at a subsequent lactation and is considered to be controlled by genetic factors.

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