CLA - There is no milk like Fleckvieh milk

Posted by Thys on Wed August 28, 2019 in FLECKVIEH PRODUCTS.

More and more we are interested in what we are eating and whether it is good for our health. The rapid advances that are made in one area of science are often the result of breakthroughs in another discipline. This is exactly what has happened to milk.

Everyone knows that milk is a good source of protein and calcium. But of course there is the fat. Up until recently, reducing the fat in milk was a big priority; this gave rise to 2% and then 1% fat milk. The fat in dairy products was generally considered to be mostly saturated fatty acids and, therefore, bad. So, in most people’s minds limiting milk and other dairy products was the right thing to do. Recently scientists have been looking at the fat content of the milk in more detail. As analytical methods become more sophisticated we are able to look at the minor components of food, often with surprising results.

Fatty acids in milk

In milk fat there are unsaturated fatty acids, and in that group of fatty acids there are several isomers of linoleic acid. Linoleic acid in its most common form (cis-9, cis-12 octadecadienoic acid) is defined as an essential fatty acid because our body needs it for a variety of reasons, but it can only be supplied by the diet. However, the isomers of linoleic acid – termed conjugated linoleic acids or CLAs – have been shown to be potent anticarcinogens and may play a role in preventing atherosclerosis.

There is a family of these CLAs and one has been shown (in lab tests and in mice) to change the body’s metabolism so that the amount of body fat is reduced and the amount of body protein is increased. CLA or conjugated linoleic acid is a type of fat that may prove to be one of our most potent cancer fighters. French researchers compared CLA levels in the breast tissues of 360 women. The women with the most CLA in their tissue (and thus the most CLA in their diets) had a 74% lower risk of breast cancer than the women with the least CLA (Bougnoux et al, Inform, 10:S43, 1999).

If an American woman were to switch to grassfed dairy products, she would have levels of CLA similar to those with the lowest risk of cancer. In fact, meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals can produce 300-500% more CLA than those of cattle fed on grain. Milk from pastured cows also contains an ideal ratio of essential fatty acids or EFAs.

EFA families

There are two families of EFAs—omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that if your diet contains roughly equal amounts of these two fats, you will have a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, allergies, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and various other mental disorders. Besides giving you five times more CLA and an ideal balance of EFAs, grass fed milk is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E.

This vitamin bonus comes, in part, from the fact that fresh pasture has more of these nutrients than grain or hay. These extra helpings of vitamins are then transferred to the cow’s milk. The level of CLAs in milk is affected by both, diet and genetics. The research on CLAs is very new and very exciting and it may change our views of milk and milk fat in the future.

Fleckvieh milk’s characteristics

Fleckvieh milk fights cancer with 30% more CLA than any other breed in their milk (cheese and yoghurt). A recent study on the Nyhof dairy farm in Canada by Dr Rob Berry (PhD, dairy specialist, Manitoba Agriculture and Food) on milk components, CLA and productivity, produced surprising results.

The farm situation was unique in that alongside purebred Holstein, the herd also contained a significant proportion of Fleckvieh crossbreds and also Jerseys. Pasture consisted of mixed sward of perennial rye grass and alfalfa and was grazed for fourteen weeks starting in early June. Individual milk samples were taken from each cow three times over the grazing period (early, middle & late season). The milk samples were analysed for butterfat and protein as well as levels of CLA. Daily yield was also measured for each cow.

The early grazing season produced the highest yields with the Fleckvieh crosses producing equivalent yields to Holsteins. Regarding milk components, Fleckvieh cattle had equivalent butter fats to Holsteins on pasture; however, the milk protein was consistently higher for Fleckvieh crosses. Predictably Jerseys had higher component yields.

Baseline CLA levels were measured at 0,4% of butterfat in the pre-pasture period when cows were receiving an alfalfa silage based TMR. Cows at pasture showed over a threefold increase in CLA levels in the early and mid grazing period. The levels of CLA in milk from pasture varied significantly between the different breed groups. The percentage of CLA in the butterfat was highest for Fleckvieh in the early and mid grazing periods and lowest for Jerseys.

The Fleckvieh crosses showed a marked advantage over Holsteins by producing over 30% more CLA in the early and mid grazing periods. The Fleckvieh crosses produced equivalent and in some instances improved yields in both milk volume and components relative to purebred Holsteins. In the Netherlands further tests on CLA showed that pure Fleckvieh cows also produced 14% more Omega 6 fatty acids than Holstein, while the Omega 3 where only 1% more for Fleckvieh but 4% more for the Fleckvieh crosses.

What consumers want

As consumers place more emphasis on the healthful benefits of milk, it may be timely to investigate the interaction of breed and forage on some specific milk components, namely CLAs and other beneficial fats. Future niche markets may be based on the fact that not all milk is created equal and basic component tests will be too crude to assess milk value. If this is the case, then the inclusion of Fleckvieh genetics in tomorrow’s dairy herds may be a worthwhile investment.

(Extractions compiled by Thys Swart from articles in Medical Food News, Super healthy milk – Jo Robinson, Wikipedia and FW World 2009 for the Simmentaler Journal 2010.)