Development of predictive models of fatty acid (FA) use by dairy cattle still faces challenges due to high variation in FA composition among feedstuffs and fat supplements. Two meta-analytical studies were carried out to develop empirical models for estimating (1) the total FA concentration of feedstuffs, and (2) the apparent total-tract digestibility of total FA (DCFATTa) in dairy cows fed different fat types. In study 1, individual feedstuff data for total crude fat (EE) and FA were taken from commercial laboratories (total of 203 feeds, 1,170,937 samples analyzed for total FA, 1,510,750 samples analyzed for total EE), and data for FA composition were collected from the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System feed library. All feedstuffs were grouped into 7 classes based on their nutritional components. To predict total FA concentration (% of dry matter) for groups of feeds, the total EE (% of dry matter) was used as an independent variable in the model, and all models were linear. For forages, data were weighted using the inverse of the standard error (SE). Regression coefficients for predicting total FA from EE (% of dry matter) were 0.73 (SE, 0.04), 0.98 (0.02), 0.80 (0.02), 0.61 (0.04), 0.92 (0.03), and 0.93 (0.03), for animal protein, plant protein, energy sources, grain crop forage, by-product feeds, and oilseeds, respectively. The intercepts for plant protein and by-product groups were different from zero and included in the models. As expected, forages had the lowest total FA concentration (slope = 0.57, SE = 0.02). In study 2, data from 30 studies (130 treatment means) that reported DCFATTa in dairy cows were used. Data for animal description, diet composition, intakes of total FA, and DCFATTa, were collected. Dietary sources of fat were grouped into 11 categories based on their fat characteristic and FA profile. A mixed model including the random effect of study was used to regress digested FA on FA intake with studies weighted according to the inverse of their variance (SE). Dietary intake of extensively saturated triglycerides resulted in markedly lower total FA digestion (DCFATTa = 44%) compared with animals consuming unsaturated FA, such as Ca-salts of palm (DCFATTa = 76%) and oilseeds (DCFATTa = 73%). Cows fed saturated fats had lower total FA digestion among groups, but it was dependent on the FA profile of each fat source. The derived models provide additional insight into FA digestion in ruminants. Predictions of total FA supply and its digestion can be used to adjust fat supplementation programs for dairy cows.
Keywords: dairy cattle fatty acid digestion feed fatty acid meta-analysis