21 nov. 2017 - 21 nov. 2020 Adeline LEFEVRE

Improving the nutritional quality of milk while reducing its environmental footprint

CRA-W and UCL have developed a dietary concept that helps to improve the quality of milk (fatty acids, vitamins and polyphenols) while limiting methane emissions and nitrogen discharges from cows.

Improving the nutritional quality of milk while reducing its environmental footprint

All too often, consumers are fed a negative image of dairy farming. Despite its wealth of nutrients, the consumption of cow's milk is regularly called into question from a health point of view, especially with regard to the saturated fatty acid content in milk, which has a negative impact on cholesterol levels in humans, among other things. Furthermore, farming - and cows indirectly - is often accused of being responsible for global warming, mainly through emissions of methane into the atmosphere and nitrogen discharges.


A trial was conducted during the winter of 2017 in order to compare a conventional ration with an optimised ration. The latter was formulated in order to satisfy the animals' protein needs in a very precise manner, considering their level of production. It was optimised in terms of its energy-yielding nutrients (cereals and oilseeds), its fat component (linseeds) and its sustainability (locally-produced raw materials, legume-rich silage).


For a similar level of production, the milk produced with the optimised ration had a much higher nutritional composition. It contained more polyunsaturated fatty acids (+62 %) with a ω6:ω3 ratio close to 1.0 (low cardiovascular risk). Moreover, it contained more vitamin B12 (+47 %). A lack of this vitamin can cause neurological problems in elderly persons. Finally, it was rich in equol, a specific polyphenol with a high antioxidant potential that may prevent hormone-dependent cancers. At the same time, this optimised ration helped to reduce methane emissions from animals by 12 %, and nitrogen discharges by 29 % compared with the conventional ration. In total, the carbon footprint per litre of milk is reduced by 25 % with the optimised ration. Therefore, as far as the dairy industry is concerned, environmental progress isn't hostile to advances associated with good quality products!


For more information: http://www.cra.wallonie.be/fr/les-projets/grassmilk

Date of update 21 November 2017