Cows fed flaxseed produce more nutritious dairy products

Cows fed flaxseed produce more nutritious dairy products
According to an OSU study, dairy cows fed up to seven percent of their daily diet in flaxseed – about six pounds – produced milk with lower amounts of saturated fat and higher concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids. Credit: Lynn Ketchum

Dairy cows that are fed flaxseed produce more nutritious milk, according to a new study by Oregon State University.

Their contained more omega-3 and less , the study found.

Diets high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol and cause heart disease, while those rich in omega-3 and other 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, according to Gerd Bobe, the lead scientist on the study, which has been published online in the Journal of Dairy Science.

Ten pregnant cows at OSU's dairy were fed different amounts of flaxseed – up to seven percent of their daily diet. Researchers attempted to pinpoint the amount of flaxseed that would maximize the amount of omega-3 in milk and dairy products without negatively affecting their production and texture.

"We were looking for a sweet spot," said Bobe, an expert in human and animal nutrition. "Too much of a good thing can be bad, especially when trying to maintain consistency with dairy products."

Collaborators in OSU's food science and technology department assisted in turning milk into butter and fresh cheese, which were then tested for texture and nutritional composition.

The study found that feeding 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. Extrusion presses raw ground flaxseed into pellets with heat.

At six pounds per day, 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 while the increase in compromised no more than nearly nine percent of the total.

Researchers also noted that the refrigerated butter was softer and less adhesive thanks to fewer saturated fatty acids. Also, the cows produced the same amount of milk while eating flaxseed.

Although flaxseed costs more than traditional cattle feeds, Bobe hopes that it still could be an affordable feed supplement for cows because products enriched with omega-3 can sell for a premium at the grocery store.

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

One thing is for sure, he said: Dairy farmers will have no trouble convincing cows to eat flaxseed. "They loved it. They ate it like candy," he said.

Explore further

Wine dregs shown to improve cows' milk

Journal information: Journal of Dairy Science

Citation: Cows fed flaxseed produce more nutritious dairy products (2013, January 25) retrieved 23 July 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 26, 2013
Question is though - how long will the products last? Since Omega 3 oils are so vulnerable to oxidation what safegaurds, if any, were built into the products?

Jan 26, 2013
From recent stories I've read, it seems you can feed cows a surprising variety of substances. Like discarded output from candy factories. Whatever is cheap will win for commodity milk.

Jan 27, 2013
From the food science perspective, just add natural anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C and especially so for Cow's supplement with organic complexes of Copper where possible or even copper sulphate - this creates cerruloplasmin in the cow's body, one of the most powerful anti-oxidants known and the copper improves digestion and shifts the bowel bacteria equilibrium away from pathogens and more towards beneficial bacteria which the cows and humans are so thoroughly dependent upon...

This collection ensures cows can produce quality milk without suffering, hey kevinrtrs why didnt your deity educate humans to supplement cows feed those thousands of years ago and also educate re minerals or how to get best nutrition for our own 1.5Kg or so of useful bowel bacteria so we can digest all sorts of plant and animal foods properly and efficiently so more food is available for others to alleviate suffering, seems a 'no-brainer' what does that say about your deity's duty of care kevinrtrs ?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more