Friday, January 25, 2013

Flaxseed Diet Makes Better Milk

Dairy cows fed flaxseed produce more nutritious milk, according to research at Oregon State University.

Diets high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol and cause heart disease, while those rich in omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease, studies have shown.

Traditional cattle feed mixtures of corn, grains, alfalfa hay and grass silage result in dairy products with low concentrations of omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fats.

In the OSU study, ten pregnant cows were fed different amounts of flaxseed – up to seven percent of their daily diet. Their resulting milk contained more omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat.

Feeding the cows up to six pounds of extruded flaxseed improved the fat profile without negatively affecting the production and texture of the milk and other dairy products.

At six pounds per day, saturated fatty acids in whole milk fat dropped 18 percent, poly-unsaturated fatty acids increased 82 percent, and omega-3 levels rose 70 percent compared to feeding no flaxseed. Similar improvements were observed in butter and cheese.

Still, saturated fat accounted for more than half of the fatty acids in the dairy products while the increase in polyunsaturated fats compromised no more than nearly nine percent of the total.

Although flaxseed costs more than traditional cattle feeds, the lead scientist on the study, Gerd Bobe, believes it could be an affordable feed supplement for cows because products enriched with omega-3 can sell for a premium at the grocer.

"Many consumers already show a willingness to pay extra for value-added foods, like omega-3 enriched milk," he noted.

Source: Oregon State University Extension Service

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Artwork: Dutch Cows Eating