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Milk from cows fed clover-rich silage compared with cows fed grass silage is higher in n-3 fatty acids

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The present study investigated the effect of a high proportion of different forage species in the diet, parity, milking time, and days in milk (DIM) on milk fatty acid (FA) profile, and transfer efficiency of C18:2n-6, C18:3n-3, n-6, and n-3 in dairy cows. Swards with perennial ryegrass [early maturity stage (EPR) and late maturity stage (LPR)], festulolium, tall fescue (TF), red clover (RC), and white clover (WC) were cut in the primary growth, wilted, and ensiled without additives. Thirty-six Danish Holstein cows in an incomplete Latin square design were fed ad libitum with total mixed rations containing a high forage proportion (70% on dry matter basis). The total mixed rations differed only in forage source, which was either 1 of the 6 pure silages or a mixture of LPR silage with either RC or WC silage (50:50 on dry matter basis). Proportion of C18:2n-6 in milk FA was affected by diet, and RC and WC diets resulted in the highest proportion of C18:2n-6 in milk FA (21.6 and 21.8 g/kg of FA, respectively). The highest and lowest milk C18:3n-3 proportion was observed in WC and LPR, respectively. In addition, WC diet resulted in highest transfer efficiency of C18:3n-3 from feed to milk (12.2%) followed by RC diet (10.7%), whereas EPR diet resulted in the lowest transfer efficiency of C18:3n-3 (3.45%). The highest milk proportion of cis-9,trans-11 conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) was observed in cows fed TF (3.20 g/kg of FA), which was 23 to 64% higher than the proportion observed in the cows fed the other diets. The highest α-tocopherol concentration (µg/mL) in milk was observed in EPR (1.15), LPR (1.10), and festulolium (1.06). Primiparous cows showed higher proportion of cis-9,trans-11 CLA (2.63 g/kg of FA) than multiparous cows (2.21 g/kg of FA). Cows early in lactation had a higher proportion of long-chain FA in milk than cows later in lactation, as long-chain FA decreased with 0.184 g/kg of FA per DIM, whereas medium-chain FA increased with 0.181 g/kg of FA per DIM. Proportion of C18:2n-6 in milk from evening milking was higher than in milk from morning milking (16.7 vs. 15.8 g/kg of FA). In conclusion, the results showed that milk FA profile of cows was affected by forage source in the diet, and RC and WC increased the health-promoting FA components, particularly n-3, whereas the TF diet increased proportion of CLA isomers in milk. Proportion of CLA isomers in milk FA from primiparous cows was higher than in milk from multiparous cows. In addition, evening milk contained more FA originating from diets compared with morning milk.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)9813-9826
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Dairy Science Association

    Research areas

  • desaturation, grasses, legumes, milk fatty acid composition, parity, ruminant

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