OMEGA-3 DAIRY: A Recipe for Success
Published on Tue, 08/18/2015 - 12:07pm
By Steve Weisman
We are what we consume. Throughout the United States, we are becoming a more health-conscious society. Consumers are becoming more selective in their purchase of food items and are aligning what they purchase with their health objectives. From fruits and vegetables, to eggs and poultry, to beef and dairy products, consumers are choosing food products that offer increased health benefits. One of the key components in this search for healthier food products is choosing foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Darci Halbgewachs, a Registered Dietician, has long supported the benefits of a balanced Omega diet and confirms that, “North American diets are typically low in Omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s important to seek out foods that include these components. By choosing foods that contain Omega-3’s, consumers are choosing foods to promote optimal health by improving cardiovascular condition. Numerous medical studies show that adequate Omega-3 consumption can increase cardiovascular health, improve cholesterol levels, help maintain healthy blood pressure levels and support a strong inflammation response.”
All this from Omega-3! This fact can be very important for dairy producers, whose goal is to provide consumers with the best and most wholesome dairy products possible. If it is true that we humans are what we consume, then what about our dairy livestock? The better their diet, the better it will be for consumers. All of this based on the premise that healthy feed + healthy animals = healthy milk = healthy consumers. As a result, dairy producers today have the opportunity to develop innovative feeding programs to enhance the nutritional value of their products by naturally altering the fatty acid composition of the milk.
Where to Turn
O&T Farms (www.otfarms.ca), which is based in Regina, Saskatchewan, has spent the past two decades researching ways to naturally enrich livestock feeds. The first years of research led to the discovery and subsequent patent of a natural Omega-3 specialty feed product called LinPRO™, which research and studies have documented increases the Omega-3 content in meats, dairy and eggs. The key to the success of LinPRO, is its ability to harness the rich Omega-3 oils within the hard-shelled flaxseed.
According to Elan Ange, CEO of O&T Farms, this process has led to a range of specialty feed ingredients now sold throughout the world. “As a result, LinPRO manufactured by O&T Farms has become a leading specialty feed ingredient for the production of Omega-3 eggs in North America.”
Building on this success, O&T Farms began to expand to other livestock species. Utilizing extensive, independent scientific and nutrition studies, O&T Farms now produces a range of animal feed ingredients with exceptional benefits for the animal nutrition and human functional food industries. O&T Farms has designed a patented dry extrusion process to maximize the benefits of the Omega-3s in flaxseed and improve the transfer of these essential fatty acids into the milk of dairy cows without compromising milk production or milk quality.
LinPRO-R™ for Dairy Cattle
The functional food category most associated with O&T Farms and their feed ingredients is Omega-3. Their brand, LinPRO-R, is a specialty feed ingredient used in dairy diets as an Omega-3 supplemental rumen-protected fat source that has become synonymous with health, nutrition and quality.
Through independent testing and research, LinPRO-R has been found to increase milk production, improve pregnancy (conception) and reduce somatic cell count. According to Rob Dreger, VP of Sales and Marketing at O&T Farms, “A cow that is nourished properly will be in better physical condition during conception/pregnancy and also be best suited to handle the stresses of high milk production. At the same time, where LinPRO-R is used in dairy cow rations, milk will also have an enhanced Omega-3 and CLA lift.” Products derived from the enhanced Omega-3 milk, such as cheese, butter, ice cream — all reap the incremental health benefits.
Dr. David A. Christensen, Professor Emeritus with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, has worked with O&T Farms on product development and evaluation for over 20 years. “The objective of our work was to create extruded feed products for dairy cows that supported high milk production, cow health and body condition. O&T helped the initiative and also provided financial support, along with the University of Saskatchewan and Government research grants. Many combinations of feeds and ingredients were tested through laboratory analysis and dairy lactation trials before arriving at the current LinPRO-R formulation. This formulation has been found to work with a variety of types of dairy rations to improve fatty acid content as well as milk yield and composition.”
Building on this technical support behind LinPRO-R, Heartland Cooperative Services in Wisconsin began its commercialization of Omega-3 cheese through the Omega Valley Farmers LLC. According to Dennis Schultz, CEO of both companies, “We became one of the early adopters of O&T Farm’s innovative Omega-3 feeding program for dairy producers. Over the past five years, we initiated feeding programs that have successfully enriched milk creating more than a million pounds of Omega-3 cheese in several varieties.”
What is LinPRO-R?
LinPRO-R is a supplemental fat source for dairy cows made by dry extruding three ingredients: flaxseed, alfalfa and dried peas. What makes LinPRO-R unique is that its fat/oil is comprised largely of Omega-3’s derived from flaxseed. Plus, flaxseed is sustainable, land-based and all-vegetable supporting O&T Farms tag line “Naturally Better.” Unlike fish or algae, which can leave an undesirable after taste in food, or nuts, which pose allergen risks, LinPRO-R leaves no after taste in food and poses no allergy risk to humans.
Dry extrusion is a process using pressure/friction to create significant heat (>300 degrees F), resulting in the eruption of the flaxseed’s hard outer shell. Dry extrusion is an all-natural process and is used to harness the key element of an oil seed — its oil. According to Ange, “The pressure and friction of dry extrusion cause the cell walls of the separate ingredients to breakdown and re-form as one very digestible ingredient — LinPRO-R. The newly formed ingredient is comprised of the healthy flaxseed oil encapsulated within the digestible starch and protein of the peas and alfalfa.”
What the Research Says
Janna Moats, Sales and Research Associate at O&T Farms and graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, presented a poster substantiating her thesis presentation at the recent American Dairy Science Association meetings held in Orlando, Florida, July 12-16, 2015. Her poster presentation entitled “Extruded Flaxseed Products Improve the Fatty Acid Profile of Bovine Milk” garnered acclaim from the conference committee. The poster that Janna presented is shown here and details the all-natural Omega-3 opportunities available for dairy producers and processors.
The objective of the study was to evaluate the use of extruded flaxseed products with elevated levels of tannins on milk production, composition and fatty acid profile, as well as rumen fermentation characteristics in dairy cattle.
Based on the results, Moats determined that supplementing a dairy cow’s ration with extruded flaxseed products (LinPRO-R) is an effective dietary strategy for increasing the concentration of healthy lipids (including Omega-3s and CLA) in the milk without compromising animal performance.
The Bottom Line
At O&T Farms, everything revolves around enriching the health of both animals and consumers naturally. To support their Omega-3 feeding protocol, a comprehensive Quality Assurance program has evolved to meet current feed and food safety standards. With the liberalization of global trade and consumer demand for safe food, the importance of feed safety for use in livestock operations is paramount.
O&T’s well-established Quality Assurance Program involves a comprehensive set of policies and procedures to ensure the safety and consistency of its manufactured feed ingredients.