This is a translated article from Le Bulletin. See link at the bottom.
An expert on the issue helps us disentangle the true from the false
The staple diet of cows is forages, but in some circumstances it may be advisable to add fat to the ration. Photo: Marie-Josée Parent
During the past few days, the subject of adding palmitic acid to the diet of dairy cows has caused a stir. For opponents, this is a bad practice that harms the cow, the quality of the milk and the environment. What exactly is it? Professor Rachel Gervais of Université Laval is very familiar with fatty acids in milk and the diet of dairy cows. This is his specialty. We asked him to go over the matter with us. How much fat is added to the diet of dairy cows? Rachel Gervais explains that it is palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid of type C16: 0. The palmitic acid used in dairy supplements comes from the valorization of the by-products of the extraction of palm oil intended for human consumption. It is therefore waste from palm oil production that is valued. There is a lot of palm oil in the processed and further processed products available in grocery stores. Is there a lot of this fat in cow's milk? Palmitic acid is the fat found in greatest quantity in cow's milk, about a third of all fatty acids, regardless of whether palmitic acid is added to the ration or not. . In fact, it is a fat that the cow can synthesize, but she can also get it through food. “It's a fatty acid that's common,” explains Rachel Gervais. We, as humans, synthesize palmitic acid from it. " If there is no palmitic acid added to the ration, will there still be palmitic acid in the milk? Absolutely because the cow naturally produces palmitic acid. Forages, which cows mainly eat, and grains contain lipids, fats. 50% of the fats contained in milk come from food and 50% from the synthesis carried out by the cow. Is its use widespread on dairy farms? "It is said that there are about 25% of producers who would have it in their supplements and of those, the vast majority do not give it for all their animals in the herd," explains Rachel Gervais. It is an expensive product and therefore, producers do not benefit from using it if the animal does not need it. Can we do without it? “Yes because not all producers use it, but is it wise to do without? asks Rachel Gervais. I would say that is not wise in all cases. " When is palmitic acid most useful in the diet of dairy cows? At the start of lactation, dairy cows are energy deficient, meaning that the energy d