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News 178 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Milk fat mainly determined by genes

A large-scale research project among 2,000 cows on 400 Dutch dairy farms showed that the cow's genes is greatly influencing the fat composition in the milk. The results will be published in the Journal of Dairy Science and Animal Genetics.

'Most people think that fat composition is largely determined by feed composition,' tells Jeroen Heck of the Product Design and Quality Management Group, who measured the fat composition of the milk. Marianne Stoop of the Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre took the fatty acid composition values found in the milk and looked at the pedigrees of the cows involved in the research project. It became clear that there was a genetic component in the composition: there were considerable differences in composition between the different families.

Milk for specific groups
Professor Johan van Arendonk, who is leading the Milk Genomics research project, says that the knowledge that the fat composition of the milk is genetically determined can be used in breeding. An important advantage shown up by the research is that the DNA profile of the bull can be used to predict the fat composition of the daughters' milk. That means that milk composition can be managed without having to carry out expensive analyses. The dairy industry in turn can produce milk with different fat compositions for specific groups.

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