Animal Nutrition

Fatty Acid Supplementation Benefits Early-Lactation Cows

Sunnyside Farms dairy cows

It’s well-known that mid-lactation cows benefit from fatty acid supplementation with palmitic acid. But what about early-lactation cows?

phdR&D researchers evaluated early-lactation cows’ response to increasing amounts of supplemental palmitic acid in the diet. All cows were fed a TMR with 35% corn silage, 19% alfalfa, 15.8% crude protein, 27.7% NDF and 28.4% starch once daily. Fat content of the basal diet was 2.6% total fatty acids, of which 0.5% was from palmitic acid. Twelve multiparous Holstein cows averaging 53 days in milk were enrolled in the study. Four levels of fatty acid supplementation (0, 0.5%, 1.0% or 1.5% of ration dry matter) were added to the basal diet, and cow response was tracked. Over the course of the study each cow was fed each of the 4 different fatty acid supplementation levels for 14 days with the final 5 days used for data collection. Results were as follows:

  • Milk yield increased with palmitic acid supplementation, 132.5 lbs, 132 lbs, 135.4 lbs and 135.8 lbs/day with 0, 0.5%, 1% and 1.5% palmitic acid added to the diet, respectfully.

  • Milk fat concentration was highest with 1% palmitic acid added to the diet, 3.59% vs. 3.52% for non-supplemented cows.

  • Milk protein concentration was not affected by additional palmitic acid in the diet.

  • Total milk protein yield increased due to the increase in milk production.

  • Dry matter intake was highest with 0.5% or 1% palmitic acid supplementation. Both resulted in 69.7 lbs of DMI per day compared to 66.4 lbs per day for non-supplemented cows—a difference of 3.3 lbs per day.

Researchers concluded that high-producing Holstein cows had the best overall response to 1% palmitic acid supplementation in early lactation.


French et al., 2020. J. Dairy Sci. 103 (Suppl.1) 68. Abstract 178