Herb-eating cows yield healthier milk
Cows that feed on herbs blended in with their traditional feeds of grass and clover produce milk richer in healthy omega-3 fats and lower in undesirable saturated fats, according to a Danish PhD project reported by Videnskab.dk.
Some herbs are better than others at increasing omega-3s. Alfalfa and salad burnet have a particularly beneficial effect on the fatty acid profile of milk.
The project revealed that dairy cows have no problems eating herbs and produce normal milk even if herbs make up 30 percent of their feed ration.
In addition to a beneficial effect on milk fatty acids, adding herbs to grasslands increases biodiversity on organic dairy farms.
Scientists have known for years that milk’s profile depends on a cow’s feed, but the increase in good fats by increasing the amount of herbs consumed is relatively new research.
Omega-3 fatty acids in milk represent a very small percentage of the total fatty acids, so small gains can have a positive effect on the population by increasing the consumption of good fats and reducing the consumption of bad fats.
The herb research was part of an industrial PhD project done in collaboration with Agro Tech, the University of Aarhus Department of Animal Science, Thise Dairy and three organic dairy farms.