Flaxseed can help during cow transition

Adding linseed oil to dairy cattle diets can benefit herd health, fertility and milk quality, according to studies outlined at the recent digital version of the 2021 Eurotier livestock farm show.

The Hamburger Liestungfutter company’s Wisan-Lein products have been promoted for pet food use, but cattle product manager Anika Henke used Eurotier, Europe’s largest farm trade show, to promote its use in the dairy sector.

Why it matters: Flaxseed oil is recognized for its human health benefits, and showing it can also work for domesticated animals has been a focus for organizations like the Flax Council of Canada.

Henke’s presentation described research at a 260-cow Jersey operation in northern Germany. She described the herd’s production as “high-protein, high-fat,” and averaging around 20 litres per day per cow.

A control group of cows after freshening was given the pre-existing diet, while another group had Wisan-Lein added to the ration. A graph depicting the cows’ body condition scores showed a gradual and almost linear decline for the flaxseed group, compared to a steeper initial decline for the control group, followed by a slow recovery. After 30 days, the average body condition score for the flaxseed group was higher than the control group.

In the weeks following, it became clear that heats typically lasted longer for the cows fed Wisan-Lein compared to the control group.

Researchers also tracked ketosis risk. Almost 60 per cent of those in the flaxseed group were in the categories one or two — at low risk of developing ketosis. Among the control group, meanwhile, just 46 per cent were at low risk.

A factsheet published by the Flax Council of Canada says that “adding linseed to the rations of ruminants like cattle improves the fat profile of milk and beef. Consumers who buy these value-added products can increase their intake of healthy fats.”

Henke says research undertaken by Hamburger Liestungfutter confirmed those assertions.

About the author

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Stew Slater

Stew Slater operates a small dairy farm on 150 acres near St. Marys, Ont., and has been writing about rural and agricultural issues since 1999.

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