High fibre silage boosts milk butterfat content

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

By Felicity Rusk

For the majority of this season, the UK butterfat content has been tracking ahead of both last year, and the three-year average. So far this season (Apr-Nov), the UK butterfat content has averaged 4.08%, the highest on record. In particular, butterfat levels in October and November were considerably above what we normally see at that time of year.

While there are number of longer-term factors at play, including shifting calving patterns, makeup of the milking herd and genetic improvements, this boost in butterfat is likely a reflection of this season’s silage quality. In particular, the proportion of neutral detergent fibre (NDF)* in this season’s silage is notably higher than last seasons, especially in the later cuts.

The higher average NDF will be promoting the rumen microorganism‘s ability to saturate polyunsaturated fatty acids and so supporting butterfat levels. It is therefore likely that butterfat levels will remain elevated throughout the winter, while this season’s silage stocks remain a key component of diets.


*Neutral detergent fibre (NDF) is a commonly used method for fibre analysis. It is a measure of the slowly fermented fractions of feed, including lignin, cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignified nitrogen (heat damaged protein). It can be measured in g/kg dry matter (DM) and % DM.




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