Medium chain fatty acids in ruminants, its science unraveled

Dairy and beef cows are real athletes, producing enormous amounts of milk, or growing at an incredible pace. These animals undergo tremendous physiological stress and are susceptible to metabolic disorders. Agrimprove developed Aromabiotic Cattle to support ruminant health. Discover the multiple mode of actions of its medium chain fatty acids and how it aids to reach farmer’s goals.

Any livestock farmer wants a healthy and high-performing herd. Healthy animals require little medication which reduces cost and labour, but also produce more efficiently, making more money from the same resources. Genetic selection has resulted in dairy and beef cows becoming real athletes, producing enormous amounts of milk, or growing at an incredible pace. As a consequence, these animals undergo tremendous physiological stress and are susceptible to metabolic disorders. Agrimprove developed Aromabiotic Cattle to support animal health and reach farmer’s goals.

Strengthening immunity

Aromabiotic Cattle is a carefully balanced mixture of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). These are saturated fatty acids with 6, 8, 10 or 12 carbon atoms which are present in an activated free fatty acid form, meaning they are not bound on a glycerol backbone such as with mono- or triglycerides. After ingestion they may exert a quadruple mode of action (Figure 1), both in the rumen (1) or lower intestines (2) , and after absorption on immunity level (3) and milk quality (4).

Figure 1: MCFA’s mode of action in ruminants

Steering rumen fermentation

MCFA can alter rumen fermentation by their antimicrobial activity (Figure 2). Microbial sensitivity is mostly determined by cell wall structures of microbes. Ciliate protozoa and Archaea are mostly affected, but also Gram-positive bacteria
are vulnerable. Indeed, MCFA are small molecules which can dissolve in the cell membrane’s lipid layer, causing its physical disrupture and cell death (Yanza et al., 2020). Alike ionophores such as monensin, MCFA can induce a shift to less cellulolytic bacteria, leading to more propionate production and hence better feed conversion. Own research has shown a positive effect on feed and nitrogen efficiency (Alvarado et al., 2020; De Smet et al., 2009) and the potential to reduce CH4 emissions (Castro-Montoya et al., 2012; Goel et al., 2009).

Figure 2: MCFA influences rumen microbial populations

Alleviating intestinal health

MCFA most likely enter the blood stream directly by absorption through the rumen wall, but some might flow to the lower intestinal tract (Reveneau et al., 2012). Even from the low-pH abomasum, MCFA can exert their direct antibacterial action by killing pathogens (Figure 3). Secondly, MCFA can reduce the virulence gene expression of bacterial pathogens. As a result of both, a more beneficial intestinal microbial ecosystem ensures a higher villus/crypt ratio, favouring the digestive and absorptive capacities of the intestines.

Figure 3: Antibacterial action of MCFA

Strengthening immunity

Eventually, MCFA are absorbed and can enter the blood stream. Research together with Ghent University has shown MCFA can prolong the lifetime of neutrophils (Piepers & De Vliegher, 2013), presumably by mediation of G-coupled receptors on the membranes of immune cells (Agrawal et al., 2017). These white blood cells will remain active for a longer time and need less energy to induce a similar immune response against pathogenic infections. Indeed, infection and inflammation requires huge amounts of energy. An activated immune response consumes > 1 kg of glucose within half a day (Kvidera et al., 2017). By strengthening the immune system, Aromabiotic Cattle’s MCFA prevent excessive loss of energy (Figure 4). Also negative energy balance during early lactation will be less severe, resulting in fewer cases of metabolic disorders (Souza et al., 2016b).

Figure 4: MCFA strengthen ruminant’s immunity

Improving performance

By supporting immunity, glucose savings can boost milk production. An effective immune response also results in lower somatic cell count numbers, illustrating improved udder health and milk quality. This is mainly visible during challenging periods such as early lactation (Piepers & De Vliegher, 2013; Souza et al., 2016a). ummarized, Aromabiotic Cattle aids to obtain more and better milk to fully exploit the cow’s genetic potential.

Your Agrimprove Expert

Frederik Gadeyne
Product Developer Cattle
+32 4 73 77 35 42