Grass-fed dairy cows produce 'superior' milk and dairy products, according to new research by Teagasc.
It’s estimated that only 10pc of global milk production originates from grazing based systems and Teagasc research has found that milk and dairy products produced from grass-fed cows have significantly greater concentrations of fat, protein, and other beneficial nutrients and are superior in appearance and flavour to milk products derived from cows fed indoors on a total mixed ration diet.
This research supports previous findings, he told the Teagasc organised ‘Grass-Fed Dairy Conference’ in Naas.
Dr Deirdre Hennessy, Teagasc animal and grassland researcher told the conference that Ireland’s temperate climate and soil type provides ideal conditions for grass growth, and with that, Irish cows spend the majority of their lactation grazing outdoors.
"It is estimated that 96pc of the diet on a fresh matter basis and 82pc on a dry matter basis of the typical Irish cow diet comes from forage; while 74pc to 77pc of the diet comes from grazed pasture on a fresh matter basis.”
Dr. Tom O Callaghan, Teagasc food researcher pointed out that the composition of milk directly affects its processing characteristics, nutritive value, yield and overall quality.
“Changes in individual components of milk influence its functionality across a variety of products including cheese, yoghurt, milk powders, and nutritional beverages, such as infant milk formula, in which dairy ingredients are used. End users of dairy ingredients require milk with predictable composition, for efficient processing, formulation and functionality, to produce consistently high quality foods.”
Teagasc has further expanded the scope of its research in this area to provide additional scientifically validated compositional data to further differentiate dairy products coming from a grass-fed diet compared to a total mixed ration diet.