Organic dairy cows at Morris.

MN Impact: Quantifying the Balance of Fatty Acids in Milk

August 30, 2018

Objective

Research will support families, children and youth understanding of healthy food choices.

Issue

Humans need both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in their diet but too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 can raise the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What has been done

In a study over three years, Brad Heins and his team at the Research and Outreach Center in Morris, in collaboration with researchers from around the world, quantified the fatty acid profile in milk from cows fed a 100 percent forage-based diet and compared it to profiles in milk from cows under conventional and organic management.

Results

The 100 percent grass- and legume-based feeding of lactating dairy cows typically yields milk fat with ratios of omega-6/3 close to 1, compared to the 5.8 for milk from cows on conventionally managed farms and 2.3 for typical organic dairy farms.

The differences found in grass-fed milk may help restore a historical balance of fatty acids and potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases.