Dairy farmers have been adding bypass fats to their cattle feed for decades. In more recent years, cow and cattle feed makers have been doing likewise. Bypass fats have some unique properties capable of improving dairy production and cattle health alike. But not all bypass fats are equal. Some are more attractive than others.

Bypass fats are often chosen for their fatty acid content. The three most common fatty acids in bypass fat products are palmitic, stearic, and oleic acids. Dairy farmers need to be particularly careful about the overall fatty acid composition within their cattle feed. Why? Because cows metabolize and utilize palmitic, stearic, and oleic acids differently.

Ideally, the bypass fats in a good cattle-cow feed demonstrate the following four characteristics:

1. Rumen-Inert

By design, bypass fats should be indigestible in the rumen. It is in the name. These fats pass through the rumen relatively intact to reach the small intestine, where they can subsequently be absorbed and utilized as energy. In the aftermath, bypass fats should have no noticeable impact on rumen fermentation.

In addition, fatty acids should have no measurable impact on dry matter intake (DMI). Every dairy farmer knows that DMI is a measurement of the amount of food and nutrients consumed every day. If certain bypass fats negatively impact DMI, nutritional intake could be compromised.

2. High in Long-Chain Fatty Acids

Long-chain fatty acids are less susceptible to biohydrogenation in the rumen. That means they are also less susceptible to being converted into less beneficial forms of fat. Therefore, the best fatty acids for bypass fats tend to be palmitic and stearic acids. Bypass fats with adequate volumes of palmitic and stearic acid perform well.

3. The Ability to Improve Energy Intake

By their nature, bypass fats are intended to provide an energy boost through direct absorption in the small intestine. Therefore, it goes without saying that a useful bypass fat has the ability to improve energy intake and utilization. The end result is higher milk production among dairy cattle. Milk quality should also be better.

Limited studies have demonstrated that bypass fat supplementation in cow-cattle feed increases both yield and quality. You get more milk and a higher milk fat content.

4. The Ability to Maintain Body Weight

Body weight and body condition score (BCS) are always a concern during early lactation. The final characteristic of an attractive bypass fat is its ability to help maintain body weight. In some cases, body weight is actually improved. A healthy body weight and BCS are indicators of good milk production.

Another thing to consider is weight loss and lower BCS immediately after calving. When that happens, other reproductive parameters are also affected. Yet a properly formulated feed including bypass fats can help minimize the risk of weight loss and lower BCS.

They Are What They Eat

Like humans, dairy cows are what they eat. As ruminants, their unique digestive systems have a significant impact on both milk production and quality. Our goal, as a cattle feed maker, is to combine a variety of specialty feed ingredients designed to keep cattle healthy while also maintaining high production levels and quality. Bypass fats are a big part of what we do.

It is fair to say that bypass fats are not the be-all and end-all of cattle feed. There are other things to consider. But adding bypass fats to cattle feed can do wonders. The key is to choose bypass fats with the right characteristics. Add them in the correct volumes and you boost energy, improve overall health, and enjoy greater production.