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Research on grass-fed dairy cows unveiled

on .

 

The benefits of grass-fed dairy systems on the nutritional composition and properties of milk and dairy products were highlighted at the Teagasc organised ‘Grass-Fed Dairy Conference’ on 25 October in Naas, County Kildare.

This conference highlighted the scientific evidence to support the conclusions that milk from grass fed cows is superior. It’s currently estimated that only 10% of global milk production originates from grazing based systems. However, in Ireland grass from grazing pasture land continues to be an important source of feed for dairy cows.

Speaking at the ‘Grass-Fed Dairy Conference’, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “Teagasc has completed a comprehensive set of studies to compare the nutrient and processing characteristics of milk derived from cows fed diets based on grazed grass versus indoor total mixed ration. The results of this research support previous findings in that milk and dairy products produced from grass-fed cows have significantly greater concentrations of fat, protein, and other beneficial nutrients and are superior in appearance and flavour to milk products derived from cows fed indoors on a total mixed ration diet.”

Dr. Deirdre Hennessy, Teagasc animal and grassland researcher said: “Ireland’s temperate climate and soil type provides ideal conditions for grass growth, and with that, Irish cows spend the majority of their lactation grazing outdoors. It is estimated that 96% of the diet on a fresh matter basis and 82% on a dry matter basis of the typical Irish cow diet comes from forage; while 74 to 77% of the diet comes from grazed pasture on a fresh matter basis.”

Dr. Tom O Callaghan, Teagasc food researcher pointed out that the composition of milk directly affects its processing characteristics, nutritive value, yield and overall quality. He said: “Changes in individual components of milk influence its functionality across a variety of products including cheese, yoghurt, milk powders, and nutritional beverages, such as infant milk formula, in which dairy ingredients are used. End users of dairy ingredients require milk with predictable composition, for efficient processing, formulation and functionality, to produce consistently high quality foods.”

Teagasc has further expanded the scope of its research in this area to provide additional scientifically validated compositional data to further differentiate dairy products coming from a grass-fed diet compared to a total mixed ration diet.

The proceedings from the ‘Grass-Fed Dairy Conference’ can be viewed at