2013 Northeast Pasture Consortium Annual Meeting Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium 2016 Annual Meeting, Manchester, NH, February 6-7, 2013

Andre Brito, University of New Hampshire
Assisting Organic Dairy Producers to Meet the Demands of New and Emerging Milk Markets: An Update on Feeding Flaxseed to Organic Dairy Cows

Andre Brito presented his work on feeding flaxseed to organic dairy cows. Value-added represents an emerging market for organic dairy farmers. A value-added property is “Heart-healthy” milk (rich in omega-3 fatty acids (FA) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Yet, in trying to produce this milk, this opportunity is constrained by:

  1. short growing season for pasture.
  2. low fatty acid content in conserved forage vs. pasture.

This is stakeholder-driven research and requires a “multi-disciplinary” approach. Pasture ecology and management produces different pastures to feed the dairy cow. Flaxseed is fed as a supplement to pasture to boost omega-3 fatty acid in milk. This also affects the dairy cow’s health, reproductive fertility, and methane (a potent greenhouse gas) emissions. In the meantime, this supplementation and use of pasture is hoped to produce “heart-healthy” milk high in omega-3 FA and CLA. If this can be done and increases demand for organic milk, organic milk can command a higher milk price improving organic dairy farm profitability. Two experiments are being conducted:

Experiment 1:
Twenty lactating organic Jersey cows received (% of diet DM): 0, 5, 10, or 15% of ground flaxseed during the winter season (conserved forage).

Experiment 2:
Twenty lactating organic Jersey cows will receive (% of diet dry ma): 0 or 10% of flaxseed during the grazing season (pasture).

Andre’s take home lessons so far from these 2 experiments were:

  1. Feeding flaxseed linearly reduced both milk production and enteric methane emissions in organic Jersey cows.
  2. Compared with no flaxseed, 10% of diet flaxseed reduced milk production by 2.8% and enteric methane emissions by 10%.
  3. Potential to use indirect calorimetry and automated measurements of methane and carbon dioxide to select cows based on feed efficiency.

Andre also briefly reported on feeding 4 ounces of kelp meal to organic cows on pasture. At that level of kelp meal supplementation, there was no significant difference in milk components produced by cows supplemented with kelp meal and those who were not.