More fat, more profit: are you feeding enough fat to your dairy herd?

Want to maximise your margins? The right type of fat can improve the health, productivity and profitability of your dairy herd. But what are the best fats to feed? When should you feed them? And how much is too much?

Why feed fats?

Fat is an essential nutrient in every diet, and it’s important to remember that your herd cannot live without it. The bottom line is that fat can help to enhance the profit margins of your business as well as the wellbeing of your herd. It’s an essential nutrient that supports all kinds of biological functions - from fertilisation to milk production.

Unrivalled energy supply for milk production - Fat has the highest energy density of any nutrient, with around 2.5-times the energy concentration of cereals. That makes it a particularly valuable resource when a cow’s demand for energy is high. For instance, dairy cows require lots of energy to maintain profitable milk yields. Dietary fat is an incredibly efficient way to meet those enhanced energy demands.

>> How to maintain your dairy herd’s body condition score

Improved fertility - Did you know fertility falls by around 10% for every 0.5 loss in body condition score? The energy density of fat makes it a key macronutrient in helping to restore a healthy body condition. Fats are also known to increase progesterone – a hormone that plays an important role in facilitating pregnancy. Some fat sources have even been proven to increase the quality of eggs at ovulation.

Reduction of heat stress - As cows turn food into energy, they produce heat internally. In hot weather this can increase heat stress. Fat generates considerably less heat than all other energy sources, providing a nutrition-based defence against heat stress.

How much fat to feed?

As a guideline, 15-20% of the metabolisable energy in a dairy cow’s diet should come from fat. Basal forage concentrate rations will typically supply around 3-3.5% fat in the dry matter, though high-yielding dairy cows may require up to 6-8% fat in the dry matter. A general rule of thumb for dairy cows is that the amount of fat to feed should equal the amount of fat the cow produces in her milk (when body condition is stable).

But beware.

Fats in most feed ingredients are released in the rumen and can cause an oil slick that coats the fibre in the rumen and prevents rumen bacteria from breaking it down.

Feeding anything over 3-5% fat in the dry matter from common feed ingredients can be detrimental to a cow’s health as well as your profits.

>> How to maintain a healthy rumen in dairy cattle

How can you use fat to maximise your profits?

Naturally, you want to protect - and increase - your profit margins as a dairy farmer. Understanding the nutritional benefits of fats will help to make that ambition a reality. But to get the best results it’s essential to offer the right fats, at the right time.

The easiest way to do that is to offer specific rumen-protected fat supplements. Unlike rumen-active fats, rumen-protected fats have no detrimental impact on regular rumen or digestive function.

Volac Wilmar has a range of uniquely-formulated rumen-protected fat supplements. They are nutritional powerhouses and contain high concentrations of important fatty acids such as palmitic acid, oleic acid and linolenic acid. Used correctly they can bring multiple, research-backed benefits to your herd, such as:

  • improved milk production
  • enhanced fat percentage of milk
  • promotion of egg development
  • increased likelihood of embryo survival


Over to you...

To find the best rumen-protected fat supplements for your herd, make your first stop When it comes to profit-boosting fat supplements, we’ve got nutrition in the bag.