It is not unusual for palmitic acid to be brought up in discussions of cow and cattle feed. Especially when discussions are centered around bypass fats and specialty feed ingredients, palmitic acid needs to be part of the equation. Why? Because it plays a very big role in milk production. Palmitic acid plays a pretty significant role in what we do here at EFI.

The Most Common Saturated Fatty Acid

Palmitic acid is a saturated fatty acid with a 16-carbon chain. It is the most common saturated fatty acid found in nature. It occurs naturally in a variety of plants, including soybeans, sunflower, and palm. Human dietary sources include oils from those plants as well as dairy products and meat. Enter the role palmitic acid plays in milk production.

Palmitic acid is known mostly for its long carbon chain. The benefits of this chain in milk production go far beyond what high schoolers learn in chemistry class. For example:

  • High Bypass Fat Potential – Palmitic acid’s long carbon chain makes it naturally resistant to rumen fermentation. The size and chemical structure of the chain makes it less susceptible to rumen microbes, allowing it to pass through and right to the intestines.
  • High Bypass Fat ContentResearch conducted in 2021 suggests that palmitic acid can make up as much as 80% of the bypass fat in some feedstocks. That is a good thing when you consider that palmitic acid is a fantastic source of energy for lactating cows.

Palmitic acid is important to EFI as well as all our competitors. It is a primary component in high nutrition feeds designed to boost milk production and quality, improve animal health, and support the dairy industry as a whole.

How It Benefits Animal Nutrition

When you read the analysis of any of our products, you will notice that we refer to C16:0 palmitic acid. That is just a longer and more official name of the saturated fatty acid we have been talking about in this post. Don’t stress over using the shorter term. It is more important that you understand how palmitic acid benefits animal nutrition, especially in the dairy space.

First and foremost, bypass fats with a high palmitic acid content contribute to increased milk fat content. A higher milk fat percentage means better yields for cheese. It also means a higher quality milk that could fetch higher prices.

Next, consider the fact that palmitic acid represents a concentrated source of energy. All types of high-performance animals can benefit from it. Specifically in a dairy setting, lactating cows need extra energy during early lactation and periods of high milk production. Palmitic acid fits the bill. As a side note, it is also a great source of energy for growing calves.

Palmitic Acid and Ruminal Health

As important as palmitic acid is to milk volume and quality, there are some concerns related to ruminal health. It is generally understood that moderate levels of palmitic acid can help stabilize rumen function, thereby enhancing overall ruminal health. Disorders like ketosis can be resisted with proper levels of palmitic acid.

On the other hand, feeding animals too much palmitic acid can have the opposite effect. For instance, excess palmitic acid can interfere with fiber digestion. That could lead to additional problems that negatively impact animal health.
The goal with palmitic acid is to achieve the right balance within an animal feed. It plays a crucial role in optimizing milk production and quality due to its long 16-carbon chain. If you would like to know how we use it in our feeds, just ask.