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Characterization of milk from feeding systems based on herbage or corn silage with or without flaxseed and authentication through fatty acid profile


Adapting feeding system is an effective way for improving the nutritional quality of milk as currently intended by dairy industry. The objectives of this work were (1) to characterize milk from feeding systems based on herbage or corn silage with or without flaxseed and (2) to authenticate the milk from the three systems on the basis of the fatty acid (FA) profile. Bulk milk samples were collected five times on 24 farms in the West of France. Farms were classified according to three feeding systems: "Herbage" system with herbage as the only forage source; "Corn silage" system with corn silage as the main forage (33.6% of DM grass based); "Corn silage+flaxseed" system with corn silage as the main forage (24% of DM grass based) supplemented with 690−1.cow−1 of extruded flaxseed. The "Corn silage+flaxseed" system had higher milk yield and lower milk fat and protein contents. Compared to milk from “Herbage system”, milk from "Corn silage+flaxseed" system was rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated FAs, trans FAs, C18:0, isomers of C18:1 and C18:2 (respectively +13, +21, +28, +13, +44, +54 percentage units), whereas milk from the "Herbage" system was rich in odd, branched chain FAs and cis-9,trans-11-CLA (respectively +51, +55 and +15 percentage units compared to milk from "Corn silage+flaxseed" system). Milk FA composition from "Herbage" and "Corn silage" systems was more variable throughout the year than that from the "Corn silage+flaxseed" system because of the incorporation of more pasture during spring and summer. The linear discriminant analysis performed on FAs permitted to differentiate milk from each system with only 2.5% of milks misclassified, even for milk from the "Herbage" and "Corn silage+flaxseed" systems, which had a similar C18:3 content. This study showed that it is possible to characterize milk from different feeding systems and especially to differentiate one from another based on their composition of some milk FAs.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. The contractual conditions between farmers and the animal food industry include doubling the amount of C18:3 in the milk in comparison to a standard feeding management based on corn silage, having a ratio ω6/ω3 lower than 5 and decreasing the amount of palmitic acid in the milk.



α-Linolenic acid C18:3


Animal unit


Body weight


Conjugated linoleic acid


National dairy herd information


Days in milk


Fisher’s F


Fatty acid


Intake capacity


Linear discriminant analysis


Non-protein nitrogen


Non-casein nitrogen


Standard deviation


Standard error to the mean


Root-mean-square error


Volatile fatty acid


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This research was supported in part by the European TRUEFOOD program (Traditional United Europe Food), an integrated project funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Program for RTD (Contract No. FOODCT-2006-016264). We thank all of the farmers from Ille et Vilaine department (France) who collaborated in the surveys. We also thank N. Huchet, T. Le Mouël and M. Vérité for their technical assistance. This work was carried out under the partnership between INRA and the “Institut de l’Elevage” within the UMT RIEL.

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Correspondence to Catherine Hurtaud.

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Hurtaud, C., Dutreuil, M., Coppa, M. et al. Characterization of milk from feeding systems based on herbage or corn silage with or without flaxseed and authentication through fatty acid profile. Dairy Sci. & Technol. 94, 103–123 (2014).

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  • Bulk milk
  • Fatty acids
  • Authentication
  • Feeding system
  • Dairy cow