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Seven messages to understand how cows are fed and the impact on butter

Posted by stephanie rogers on March 23, 2021 in News
Daniel Scothorn, Class of 1997
Daniel Scothorn, Class of 1997

Daniel Scothorn, Class of ’97 and lead nutritionist at Scothorn Nutrition (SN) operates a dairy management consultancy on the East Coast of Canada.  For over 11 years, SN has also been importing fatty acids to Canada.  Daniel has travelled extensively in Malaysia to understand the full cycle of palm oil farming, processing, and design of animal feeds from by-products of the industry.

With a balanced understanding of the environment, oil processing, dairy cow nutrition and logistics, Daniel offers a practical and informed message to dairy farmers and consumers wondering about how palm co-products can be a tool in dairy production.

1. We DO NOT feed cows palm oil. Palm oil is for human food. We feed cows the downstream co-product called palmitic acid.

2. Cow diets are 0.0 to 2.0 per cent of palmitic acid and is fed as a plant-based oil rich in calories.

3. Grass fed cows + organically fed cows have higher palmitic in their butter compared to conventionally fed cows.

4. Palmitic acid is already, naturally the highest fatty acid in butter and can range from 29 to 35 per cent. Palmitic acid fed to cows does not go directly to milk fat- it’s much more complex than that.

5. There is no science that supports palmitic acid fed cow milk changes the processing properties.

6. The cow chooses which fatty acids to incorporate into the milk fat triglyceride to keep her milk fluid (plasticity). Her goal in life is to keep milk flowing from her teat into the calf’s mouth, therefore she maintains a very tight range of fluidity, so the teat canal doesn’t gum up. This gives milk fat consistency which then imparts the same consistency in butter.

7. Milk could be transported 1000s of kms before processing into butter. Butter can be stored for 1 to >6 months (frozen) before reaching retail. Butter churn temp and RPM affect butter hardness…yes butter making is still an art.