At Volac Wilmar, we’re always aiming to remain on the cutting edge of nutritional science. If we’re not conducting research ourselves, we are studying and investigating any new knowledge that gets published.

In early November, we hosted a webinar that explored some new and impactful scientific research on fatty acid nutrition.

To discuss the topic in-depth, we welcomed an esteemed panel of experts:

  • Dr Richard Kirkland, Global Technical Manager at Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients
  • Dr Jonas de Souza, Technical Services Manager at Perdue Agribusiness
  • Professor John Newbold, Professor of Dairy Nutrition at Scotland’s Rural College

Please Welcome

Joined by 130 guests on the day, this webinar sought to break down the key findings from this new research and discuss the ways it could change our understanding of fatty acid nutrition and feed supplements moving forwards.

Attendees were welcomed into the webinar by Hannes ten Doesschate, Volac Wilmar’s General Manager, who set the scene for the session before handing over to our host for the day Laura Steeden, Feed Fat Product Manager for Volac Wilmar – a familiar face from our other recent webinars and events.

First thoughts

With 15 years of experience with the Volac Animal Nutrition team, our first speaker was Dr. Richard Kirkland, Global Technical Manager of Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients. Richard specialises in how fatty acids can improve the performance of lactating dairy cows and has traveled extensively to explore different agriculture and dairy production systems around the world.

He was quick to sum up the underlying potential of this research: “The new research presented offers opportunities to improve the nutrition provided for early lactation dairy cows. It’s a great example of how research can be put into practice.”

Next up…

All the way from the USA, we were joined by Dr. Jonas de Souza, Technical Service Manager for Perdue Agribusiness, who is heavily involved in supporting research and development in the Animal Nutrition sector and developing technical specifications for fatty acid blends offered to ruminants.

Dr. Souza conducted his Ph.D. research on fatty acid supplementation of dairy cows at Michigan State University, USA, and his technical knowledge and experience within the industry meant his presence on the panel was invaluable.

Our final speaker

John Newbold is Professor of Dairy Nutrition at Scotland’s Rural College and was our final speaker on the day. Professor Newbold has spent almost three decades working on a self-proclaimed mission of learning everything there is to know about how cows function and then using that knowledge to improve the way agricultural professionals approach ruminant nutrition. 

Closing out the session

With our brilliant panel of speakers and those who took the time to join in on the day, the sessions proved to be a huge success. We thank you for getting involved!

If you missed the webinar at the first time of asking, not to worry! You can still watch the full recording by following this link.

Be sure to share your thoughts on the topics discussed throughout this webinar by reaching out to us on Twitter and Facebook.

Outstanding Q&As

We received some excellent questions from our guests throughout the session. Unfortunately, due to time restraints on the day, our panelists weren’t able to answer all of them at the time.

Here are some of the questions on fatty acid nutrition left outstanding from the discussion, which have now been kindly addressed by our experts…


Q: “Question about fat addition to compound feed pellets. The pellet reaches around 80 degrees of Celsius in the machine - what happens to fatty acids then? Do you have any advice when producing pellets with fats? ”

A: With the highly-saturated, non-calcium salt supplements, adding additional fat to the pellets will lead to softer pellets, especially in hot weather as the fat in these supplements typically melts around 55-59°C.  The fat will melt coming through the pelleting process but cool and crystallise again – in essence, it acts as a lubricant during pelleting, but the pellet itself will be softer.

Calcium salts do not melt and will cause friction during pelleting, which may cause some difficulties depending on the process, however, is expected to produce firmer pellets than with the saturated supplements.

We have manufactured pellets up to 60% Megalac (calcium salt) for trial purposes with slowing the plant and adjusting steam for example, but individual production facilities vary and need to be considered. 


Q: "Can we predict how much milk fat can be raised when adding palmitic acid product to the diet?"

A: This question was addressed in a meta-analysis of 30 experiments presented at the ADSA conference in 2019 in a paper from Professor Lock’s group at Michigan State University. When used at 3% of ration DM or less, ‘high C16:0’ fat supplements (containing > 80% C16:0) increased milk fat % by 0.17% units (and increased milk yield by 1.54kg/d).

In the same meta-analysis, fat supplements containing a mix of palmitic and stearic acids (C16:0 and C18:0) had no significant effect on milk fat % and increased milk yield by 1.19kg/d. This paper did not evaluate calcium salts providing oleic acid (C18:1).


Q: "In monogastrics and humans it is known that FA, specifically unsaturated ones, increases CCK levels and hence also the amount of bile acids and enzymes in the small intestine. Is something known about this in cattle? Specifically, the effect of FA on starch"

A: Fatty acids, especially unsaturated fatty acids, that reach the small intestine also stimulate the release of CCK and other gut peptide hormones in ruminants. It’s also known that infusion of CCK in ruminants stimulates the secretion of pancreatic amylase. However, data linking these two effects and showing effects of post-ruminal FA supply on intestinal starch digestion appear to be lacking.

Biliary phospholipids, acted on by pancreatic lipase and converted to lysophospholipids, play a critical and probably rate-limiting role in fatty acid absorption in ruminants. Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the magnitude of bile secretion in dairy cows, or how they are affected by fat supplements.


Q: "A practical problem we address is the protein content of milk. In general, feeding Megalac is detrimental to the protein content of milk. Do you have some additions to this?"

A: Recent meta-analysis (dos Santos Neto et al., 2019 ADSA annual meeting) concluded that calcium salts of palm fatty acid reduced milk protein concentration by 0.05% units. This is similar to the figure of -0.046% units reported by Rabiee et al. (2012). Reasons for this effect remain unclear.


Q: "In human nutrition, a lot is known about the effect of fat on subclinical inflammatory states of individuals: something also very relevant for fresh dairy cattle. Connect, for example, with the research of Bradford."

A: The simplistic view is that n-6 series fatty acids, such as linoleic, can be pro-inflammatory while n-3 fatty acids, such as linolenic, can be anti-inflammatory, with these effects mediated through different prostaglandins. The effect of oleic acid (C18:1) on inflammation in transition cows is a subject of current research.


Q: If C16:0 uptake by the mammary gland increase and is esterified to milk fat: what about the healthy value of the saturated milk fat?

Do you think that increasing the milk fat content of C16:0 is a desirable "healthy" result?

A: Although we see increases in the concentration of C16:0 in milk, the mammary gland compensates that by reducing the concentration of other saturated fatty acids like C14:0, C12:0, and others. So, the net increase in saturation is minimal. Also, one thing to remember is that in Human nutrition, the position of fatty acids within triglycerides seems to be important. In milk, 95% of fatty acids are in triglycerides form, which is important to take into account. 


Q: Hi Jonas, How do you see this in relation to heat stress?

A: Under heat stress, we know that cows enter a state of metabolic stress, and new research is indicating that the immune system became an important source of energy use. Also, cows enter a state of induced insulin resistance that changes nutrient partition and favor mobilization of reserves. The new data with oleic acid indicate that this FA improves insulin sensitivity in fresh cows. Although I am not aware of data with oleic acid with animals under heat stress, based on this biology we could hypothesize that oleic acid may favor cows under heat stress. 


Q: Which response do we get when we use stearic acid in diets??

A: Most of the research indicates that high levels of C18:0 in diets decrease FA digestibility and do not result in improvements in animal performance. It seems that performance only increases with stearic acid under low-fat diets. I think C18:0 is an important FA for the cow, but the basal diet (forage and grains) already indirectly provides in the diets because of the rumen biohydrogenation of unsaturated FA. So, I would prefer to drive C18:0 using basal ingredients and by-products than using a supplement.


Q: For Dr. De Souza... what would you think about a fatty acid product for cows, with the following profile: C16:0 30%; C18:0 30%; and the rest is some C:18:1...C18:2

A: I think that we should target a supplement to have FA that we cannot find in other ingredients on the diet. So, the answer about the “ideal FA profile” of a supplement depends on what other ingredients you have available. If you can find some ingredients that provide FA in moderate levels, then driving C18:2 and C18:0 should be done mainly through the basal diet, as long as we can do it in a safer manner. C16:0 and C18:1 are usually harder to drive through basal ingredients. I would look into what is the most cost-effective way to drive FA in diets.