Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Cows can be bred to produce milk with less saturated fats

Research has shown that it is possible to breed cows that produce milk with lower levels of saturated fats.

Studies on the saturated fatty acid content in fat of the Next Generation trial herd at Moorepark show 'considerable' differences among Holstein Friesians.

The milk from some cows had 69pc of the fat in saturated form, which is widely perceived as being the unhealthiest fraction of fat.

At the other end of the scale, some cow's fat only had 57pc saturates present.

"Can you imagine how powerful it would be to be able to approach a global retailer or food company to tell them that you've got a naturally healthier milk?" Prof Donagh Berry asked delegates at the Positive Farmers Conference in Cork.

However, the Teagasc researcher noted that the selection criteria used by breeders appeared to select for cows with higher overall milk fat concentrations was creating a bias towards cows with high saturated fat contents.


The power of genomics has also allowed Teagasc researchers to identify cows that are 30pc better feed converters, and lines that have greater resistance to health problems and diseases such as TB, cystic ovaries, lameness and mastitis.

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"We will be able to tell you from a calf's DNA that it will be 50pc more likely to get mastitis than another, or if it has a 31pc or 5pc chance of being susceptible to TB," he said.

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