Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Between-cow variation in milk fatty acids associated with methane production

de Souza, J.; Leskinen, H.; Lock, A. L.; Shingfield, K. J.; Huhtanen, P.


We evaluated the between-cow (b-cow) variation and repeatability in omasal and milk fatty acids (FA) related to methane (CH4) emission. The dataset was originated from 9 studies with rumen-cannulated dairy cows conducted using either a switch-back or a Latin square design. Production of CH(4)per mole of VFA (Y_CH(4)VFA) was calculated based on VFA stoichiometry. Experiment, diet within experiment, period within experiment, and cow within experiment were considered as random factors. Empirical models were developed between the variables of interest by univariate and bivariate mixed model regression analysis. The variation associated with diet was higher than the b-cow variation with low repeatability (< 0.25) for milk odd- and branch-chain FA (OBCFA). Similarly, for de novo synthesized milk FA, diet variation was similar to 3-fold greater than the b-cow variation; repeatability for these FA was moderate to high (0.34-0.58). Also, for bothcis-9 C18:1 andcis-9cis-12cis-15 C18:3 diet variation was more than double the b-cow variation, but repeatability was moderate. Among the de novo milk FA, C4:0 was positively related with stoichiometric Y_CH(4)VFA, while for OBCFA,anteisoC15:0 and C15:0 were negatively related with it. Notably, when analyzing the relationship between omasal FA and milk FA we observed positive intercept estimates for all the OBCFA, which may indicate endogenous post-ruminal synthesis of these FA, most likely in the mammary gland. For milkisoC13:0,isoC15:0,anteisoC15:0, and C15:0 were positively influenced by omasal proportion of their respective FA and by energy balance. In contrast, the concentration of milk C17:0,isoC18:0, C18:0,cis-11 C18:1, andcis-9cis-12cis-15 C18:3 were positively influenced by omasal proportion of their respective FA but negatively related to calculated energy balance. Our findings demonstrate that for most milk FA examined, a larger variation is attributed to diet than b-cow differences with low to moderate repeatability. While some milk FA were positively or negatively related with Y_CH(4)VFA, there was a pronounced effect of calculated energy balance on these estimates. Additionally, even though OBCFA have been indicated as markers of rumen function, our results suggest that endogenous synthesis of these FA may occur, which therefore, may limit the utilization of milk FA as a proxy for CH(4)predictions for cows fed the same diet.

Published in

2020, volume: 15, number: 8, article number: e0235357

Authors' information

de Souza, J.
Michigan State University
Leskinen, H.
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)
Lock, A. L.
Michigan State University
Shingfield, K. J.
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)