Based on potential benefits to human health, there is increasing interest in altering the composition of ruminant-derived foods. Including rapeseeds in the dairy cow diet is an effective strategy for replacing medium-chain saturated fatty acids (SFA) with cis-monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) in bovine milk, but there is limited information on the optimum level of supplementation. Decreases in SFA due to plant oils are also accompanied by increases in milk trans fatty acid (FA) content and it is possible that high oleic acid rapeseeds may result in a higher enrichment of cis-9 18:1 and lower increases in trans FAs in milk compared with conventional varieties. Seven multiparous lactating Holstein–Friesian cows were allocated to one of seven treatments in an incomplete Latin square design with five 28-day experimental periods, to evaluate the effect of replacing calcium salts of palm oil distillate (CPO; 41 g/kg diet dry matter, DM) with 128, 168 or 207 g/kg diet DM of conventional (COR) or a high oleic acid (HOR) rapeseed fed as a supplement milled with wheat. Rapeseed variety and inclusion level had no effect (P > 0.05) on DM intake, milk yield and composition. Both rapeseed varieties decreased linearly (P < 0.001) milk fat SFA content, which was partially compensated for by a linear increase (P < 0.001) in cis-9 18:1 concentration. Reductions in milk SFA were also associated with increases (P < 0.05) in trans 18:1 and total trans FA content, with no difference (P > 0.05) between rapeseed varieties. Replacing CPO in the diet with milled rapeseeds had no effect (P > 0.05) on total milk conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) concentration. Relative to a COR, inclusion of a high oleic acid variant in the diet increased (P = 0.01) the ratio of trans-MUFA : trans-polyunsaturated fatty acids in milk that may have implications with respect to cardiovascular disease risk in humans. In conclusion, data indicated that replacing CPO with milled rapeseeds at levels up to 1150 g oil/day could be used as a nutritional strategy to lower milk SFA content without inducing adverse effects on DM intake and milk production. HOR reduced milk fat SFA content to a greater extent than a conventional variety, but did not minimise associated increases in trans FA concentrations. However, the high oleic acid variant did alter the relative abundance of specific trans 18:1, CLA and trans 18:2 isomers compared with conventional rapeseeds.
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