Milk Fatty Acids : The Impact of Grazing Diverse Pasture and the Potential to Predict Rumen-Derived Methane

Loza, Cecilia; Davis, Hannah; Malisch, Carsten; Taube, Freidhelm; Loges, Ralf; Magistrali, Amelia; Butler, Gillian


The sustainability of dairying has been questioned, yet cattle exploit non-food resources (especially forages) and provide key nutrients for consumers’ health. This study, using different forage types, considered milk’s nutritional quality, focusing on fatty acid profiles alongside methane emissions—investigating whether methane can be predicted from milk fatty acids (FAs). Compared with grass/clover/maize silage, cows grazing grass/clover pasture produced milk 70% higher in beneficial omega-3 FAs, which increased by an additional 15% when grazing more diverse pasture. Milk from grazing also had less omega-6 FAs (compared with silage diets), and their ratio with omega-3 FAs fell from 2.5:1 on silage to 1.2:1 when grazing grass/clover and 1.1:1 on diverse pasture. Measured methane emissions (at 8.7 g/kg energy-corrected milk) were lower than published values, and existing models for estimating methane from lactating cows were poor predictors for this dataset. The multiple regression of methane against milk FAs in this study provided predictions with an R2 of 0.56 for daily emissions and 0.65 relative to milk output. Grazing quality and a diverse pasture with productive cows were potentially beneficial to milk nutritional quality, and our results reinforce the theory that milk fat composition could be an accessible tool for methane prediction; however, they also suggest that more work is needed for alternative production systems.