Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 August 2017
This Research Paper addresses the hypothesis that is possible to identify the type of feed used for dairy cows by means of the analysis of milk composition and the fatty acid profile of milk fat. Sixteen dairy farms were monitored during 1 year with quarterly visits between summer 2014 and spring 2015. Rations varied throughout the year due to annual dynamic change of forage production, forage rotation, variation of nutrient requirements according to physiological state of the animal, etc. The ingredients of the rations were analysed by cluster identifying five feeding systems based on the main ingredient of the diet: grazing, maize silage, grass silage, dry forage and concentrate. Milk composition could explain up to 91·3% of the total variability among feeding systems, while fatty acid profile could explain only up to 61·2% of total variability. However, when the sum of types of fatty acids and their ratios are taken, up to 93·5% of total variability could be explained. The maize silage system had the greatest milk yield, protein, solid non-fat and urea proportions, as well as the highest proportion of saturated fatty acid and lowest concentration of trans11 18 : 1, cis9 18 : 1 and 18 : 3 n3. Principal component analysis distinguishes the maize silage system from other feeding systems, both from milk composition and milk fatty acid profile. Concentrate system overlapped partially with the grazing, grass silage and dry forage systems. The latter systems had the highest concentrations of cis9 18 : 1, trans11 18 : 1 and 18 : 3, but there was no clear differentiation among them.