Digestion, Milk Production, Milk Composition, and Blood Composition of Dairy Cows Fed Whole Flaxseed
A total of 90 lactating Holstein cows averaging 628 kg (SE = 8) of body weight (BW) were allotted at calving to 30 groups of three cows blocked for similar calving dates to determine the effects of feeding whole untreated flaxseed on milk production and composition, fatty acid composition of blood and milk, and digestibility, and to determine whether flaxseed could substitute for other sources of fat such as Megalac and micronized soybeans. Cows were fed a total mixed diet based on grass and corn silage and fat supplements for ad libitum intake. The experiment was carried out from calving up to wk 16 of lactation. Cows within each block were assigned to one of the three isonitrogenous, isoenergetic, and isolipidic supplements based on either whole flaxseed (FLA), Megalac (MEG), or micronized soybeans (SOY). Intake of dry matter and change in BW were similar among diets. Cows fed FLA had greater milk yield than those fed MEG (35.7 vs. 33.5 kg/d) and there was no difference between cows fed FLA and those fed SOY (34.4 kg/d). Fat percentage was higher in the milk of cows fed MEG (4.14%) than in the milk of those fed FLA (3.81%) or SOY (3.70%), but milk protein percentage was higher for cows fed FLA (2.98%) than for those fed MEG (2.86%) and SOY (2.87%). Digestibilities of acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, and ether extract were lower for cows fed FLA than for those fed SOY and MEG. Retention of N was similar among diets. Feeding FLA resulted in the lowest omega-6-to-omega-3-fatty-acids ratio, which would improve the nutritive value of milk from a human health point of view. The data suggest that micronized soybeans and Megalac can be completely substituted by whole untreated flaxseed as the fat source in the diet of early lactating cows without any adverse effect on production and that flaxseed increased milk protein percentage and its omega-6-to-omega-3-fatty-acids ratio.