Dairy trials see significant CO2 reductions alongside milk yield increases
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Commercial scale studies into palm-free fat supplement see higher yield response than Nottingham University trial findings

A number of dairy farms in the UK have significantly lowered their feed carbon footprint by more than 10%, while also returning impressive milk yield increases, by trialling a new UK-manufactured palm-free fat supplement as a replacement to calcium soap.

Results were recorded as part of a commercial study on five farms from Co-op’s Dairy Group, in collaboration with Müller Milk & Ingredients and Kite Consulting. The study evaluated the performance potential and sustainability of envirolac, a new palm-free fat supplement created by UFAC-UK.

Manufactured from locally sourced vegetable oils, together with marine oils, envirolac was developed and launched to market in 2023 by UFAC-UK, following a successful trial at the University of Nottingham, undertaken by Professor Phil Garnsworthy, where envirolac replaced a calcium soap on a fresh weight basis.

Calcium soap has traditionally been used in the diet of dairy cattle to improve energy balance and milk yield persistence, but as a palm oil-based derivative, it can carry a higher carbon footprint if sourced unsustainably.

The aim of the Nottingham trial, overseen by Professor Garnsworthy, was to evaluate whether envirolac performed as well as a calcium soap. However, the trial results actually revealed that the palm-free fat supplement produced a 0.6kg increase in milk yield and a lift in butterfat production from 3.85% to 4.01%, with an overall increase in feed conversion efficiency.

Significantly, the trial also showed the feed carbon footprint of envirolac to be approximately one third of the footprint of the control palm-based supplement, reducing the feed carbon footprint per kg of energy corrected milk by 11%. Herd health and welfare is maintained at current high standards, and there is potential product cost savings for farmers, based on feed conversion efficiency.

envirolac packaging

Co-op’s Dairy Group and Müller Milk & Ingredients trials looked to evaluate the supplement, which was commended at both the Cream Awards and RABDF Innovation Awards, within a commercial setting.

“The commercial studies were undertaken over a total of 436 animals, with an average of 73 animals across five herds, at between 7-100 days in milk (DIM),” explains nutritionist Mike Chown, who had been overseeing the trials on behalf of UFAC-UK.

The headline findings showed a total weighted average milk yield increase of 0.8kg above the Nottingham trials, with an average increase of 1.4kg, compared to the 0.6kg improvement over the calcium soap control in the original trial.

Similar lifts in total milk solids were also recorded, with 0.10kg increase in the commercial studies, compared to 0.13kg in the trial.

“We saw a higher yield response from the commercial studies than the university trial, with similar butterfat and protein improvements, and overall increased feed conversion efficiency,” says Mr Chown.

Because of the 64% lower carbon footprint of envirolac compared to a calcium soap,* the palm-free fat supplement will also significantly reduce the carbon footprint, per kg of milk, on commercial farms.

“These are really impressive results on a commercial scale, with a superb sample size, with each herd having a larger average sample size of 7-100 DIM cows (73 against 50) than the university study,” he adds.

Colin Markham, agriculture specialist at Co-op, comments, “At Co-op, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our dairy supply, while supporting our farmers. Trials like these play an important part in considering and evaluating potential sustainable solutions that may help to deliver this objective.”

Andrew Bell, retail group manager at Müller Milk & Ingredients adds, “We are committed to supporting our supplying dairy farmers and providing them with access to tools which can help reduce carbon footprints, while maintaining a profitable and productive operation. The trials are providing promising results. We are now continuing studies over a further 12-month period, to monitor any potential herd health and fertility benefits.”

Robert Jones, UFAC-UK managing director says, “It is very encouraging to see the Nottingham University trial being translated into the commercial environment and exceeding results achieved under controlled conditions.

“We are delighted both Co-op and Müller Milk & Ingredients are continuing with the trials into the next phase, and the farms are happy to continue using the palm-free fat supplement during these studies.

“We feel envirolac represents an important part of the dairy industry’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, while maintaining production efficiencies.”