Industry News

Published on Wed, 03/21/2018 - 10:00am

Forage-Based Diets on Dairy Farms Produce Nutritionally Enhanced Milk
Markedly higher levels of health-promoting fatty acids reported

Article provided by Dr. Bradley Heins - Associate Professor, University of Minnesota

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential human nutrients, yet consuming too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.  Today, Americans consume 10 to 15 grams of omega-6 for every gram of omega-3.
Previous studies have shown that consuming organic beef or organic dairy products lowers dietary intakes of omega-6, while increasing intakes of omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), another valuable, heart-healthy fatty acid.
In a collaborative research project including the University of Minnesota, Johns Hopkins University, Newcastle University in England, Southern Cross University in Linsmore, NSW Australia, and the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, researchers have found that cows fed a 100% organic grass and legume-based diet produce milk with elevated levels of omega-3 and CLA, and thus provides a markedly healthier balance of fatty acids.  The improved fatty acid profile in grass-fed organic milk and dairy products (hereafter, “grassmilk”) brings the omega-6/omega-3 ratio to a near 1 to 1, compared to 5.7 to 1 in conventional whole milk.
“With growing consumer demand for organic dairy products, producers may be able to expand their profitability and market share by converting to grass-based pasture and forage-feeding systems,” said co-author Dr. Bradley Heins, Associate Professor of Dairy Science at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center.
Findings from the study “Enhancing the Fatty Acid Profile of Milk through Forage-Based Rations, with Nutrition Modeling of Dietary Outcomes,” published in Food Science and Nutrition, compared the fatty acid profile of milk from cows managed under three systems in the United States:
• “Grassmilk” cows receive an essentially 100% organic grass and legume forage-based diet, via pasture and stored feeds like hay and silage.  
• “Organic” cows receive, on average, about 80% of their daily Dry Matter Intake (DMI) from forage-based feeds and 20% from grain and concentrates.
• “Conventional” cows are fed rations in which forage-based feeds account for an estimated 53% of daily DMI, with the other 47% coming from grains and concentrates. Conventional management accounts for over 90% of the milk cows on U.S. farms.
Grassmilk provides by far the highest level of omega-3s—0.05 grams per 100 grams of milk (g/100 g), compared to 0.02 g/100 g in conventional milk - a 147% increase in omega-3s.  Grassmilk also contains 52% less omega-6 than conventional milk, and 36% less omega-6 than organic milk.  In addition, the research team found that grassmilk has the highest average level of CLA—0.043 g/100 g of milk, compared to 0.019 g/ 100 g in conventional milk and 0.023 g/100 g in organic.

Implications for Public Health
Daily consumption of grassmilk dairy products could potentially improve U.S. health trends.  In addition to the well-established metabolic and cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, there are additional benefits for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and children. Various forms of omega-3 fatty acids play critical roles in the development of eyes, the brain, and the nervous system. Adequate omega-3 intakes can also slow the loss of cognitive function among the elderly.
In describing the public health implications of the study’s main findings, co-author Charles Benbrook, a Visiting Scholar at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, points out that “The near-perfect balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in grassmilk dairy products will help consumers looking for simple, lifestyle options to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases.”

Source of Samples and Funding
The team analyzed over 1,160 samples of whole grassmilk taken over three years from on-farm bulk tanks prior to any processing. All samples came from farmer members of CROPP Cooperative and were tested by an independent laboratory.         
For more information on the research team, study methods, findings, nutrition modeling results, study costs and funding, and to follow along with grass-fed dairy research by Dr. Heins, visit
Link to the journal report: 

VAS Introduces FeedComp Mobile Feed Management Software

By Bill Elverman 

Valley Agricultural Software (VAS) introduces FeedComp, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) extension of its newly enhanced FeedWatch feed management software. FeedComp provides dairy operators, feeders, consultants and nutritionists access to feeding program detail and controls from web-connected mobile devices of all common operating systems (MAC, PC, iOS, Android).
This streamlines feeding operations by allowing workers to more closely monitor, track and control (in real time) factors such as feed use, intakes, dry matter percentages, waste, mixing ratios and chemistries — as well as allowing for simple report creation/review. It also integrates with the larger VAS Platform (DairyComp and ParlorComp) to give dairy operators and feeding professionals a complete view of the entire dairy ecosystem.
“Feed is the most costly input of milk production, and even the simplest improvements in feeding programs achieve greater profitability through improved production at lower cost,” says Tim Taylor, CEO, VAS. “The ability to access and control feeding parameters, recipes and inventories from anywhere with a mobile device allows for important decisions to be made on the fly, and changes to be made more immediately to have the greatest effect.”

The Mobile Feed Management Advantage
The latest edition of the FeedWatch desktop software has already helped dairies increase production and profitability through greater mixing accuracy (ensuring the proper mix is established for each pen), the ability to identify errors and waste, ensure labor consistency, and establish a turnkey way of weighing, inventorying and ordering feed. The ability to do all that from a mobile device instead of requiring travel back to a central desktop computer saves time and effort, and allows for changes to have an immediate impact. Reports can also be accessed and reviewed at home or in the field, allowing for faster understanding of current conditions.

“FeedComp establishes an immediacy in decision making, and action based on the best available information,” says Taylor. “It also gives dairy operators the most direct and accurate contrast of feed costs to overall profits, helping them understand that balance and drive continuous improvement.”    
FeedComp requires no additional technological infrastructure other than the mobile device the user already has. It is automatically updated via the web — so users will always have the most current edition of the software. And the integration with the greater VAS platform allows for deeper integration of reporting and data in a single, common interface. It also provides a basis for the development of future application program interfaces (APIs) that can tie in partners (veterinary, milk distribution, feed providers, etc.) to create efficiencies throughout the entire dairy ecosystem. And, as a web-based system, it also allows for the integration of multi-site data into a single program.
For more information on VAS FeedComp, visit, or call toll-free at 888-225-6753.