C16:0 or Calcium soap for my cows? Humble comments for the frequently asked questions

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Calcium salts of long chain fatty acids (Ca-LCFAs), and particularly those compounded by palm fatty acids (Ca-PFAD) are probably the most proven by researchers and field nutritionists. They are for sure one of the most viable option to reconcile high levels of production, herd’s health, and reproductive efficiency.

However, newer fats came into the market. Particularly, palmitic acid (C16:0) supplements seem to come to stay on it, as it is the supplement that is helping farmers to increase (or maintain) milk fat % (see table 1).


Which is the real effect of C16:0 on milk production?

Table 1. Brief review of recent studies addressing C16:0 effects on milk production


Stakeholders’ views on C16:0 market evolution and its adoption at farm level

Due to this, stakeholders involved in the fats market are worried to the possibility of product cannibalism, leading to lack of decision towards their portfolio strategy (their dairy arsenal).

  • USA: some nutritionists think that C16:0 supplements will gupple up Ca-PFAD, due to the margin to increase milk fat %.
  • Spain: in Spain, around three years ago nutritionist started to talk about C16:0 and carry out farm trials. Here, depending on the climatic area and purchasing power, different strategies are followed:
  • Total substitution of palm Ca-soap to C16:0 supplements
  • Partial substitution: at different proportions, sometimes adjusted following a dose-response pattern
  • Moments: some farms are using it quite frequently but nowadays it could be said that this is mainly used under milk fat % problems (both unexpected decrease –such us a new silage of low quality, and expected decrease: summer coming).

Therefore, Ca-PFAD are commonly used during the whole lactation, and C16:0 supplements are mainly used in some periods.

Metabolic destiny?



The economic efficiency of the use of C16:0 supplements (ROI) will be of course the parameter that will guide the development of this market in the different areas. In general terms, if one makes the comparison of the C16:0 content cost, Ca-PFAD are cheaper than C16:0 supplements. However, it seems that when certain milk fat % is reached and/or real risk of milk fat depression arrives, are situations under which C16:0 supplements seem to be more worthy of being used.

Above this, the key point to take into account is how farmers are rewarded (milk yield, milk quality, solids, composed formula, etc.), as this will make that C16:0 supplements’ economic efficiency vary.

March 5, 2018
I have made comparison in my client farm. The Calcium soap tend to increase the milk yield but lower in milk fat compare to c16:0 which higher in milk fat with litle lower in milk yield. Meanwhile Calcium soap was believed tend to reduce feed palatability due to the soapy odour
star Alfredo J. Escribano Alfredo J. Escribano
PhD in Animal Production
March 10, 2018
Results depend a lot on previous diet and current cows milk yield and milk quality.

As you said: palatability "belief". The parameters worthy of attention are profitability, ROI and feed efficiency, not DMI as such.
star Joe Magadi Joe Magadi
March 6, 2018
Interesting observation. However, let's remember that at the feed rates above the fat supplementation is less than 2% of the total dry matter. In order to get the fat % right the whole ration must be examined particularly with regard to fibre index.

C16 on its own may increase milk fat but if not carefully balanced with the rest of the nutrients can reduce fat digestibility and exacerbate loss in body condition which is not good for cow health and fertility. Current thinking is to look at the fat supplementation through the lens of overall fatty acid composition to be able to maximise fat utilisation and productivity. We find feeding C16 in combination with C18:1 and long chain omega-3 fatty acids a better better approach to fat supplementation and utilisation.
star Alfredo J. Escribano Alfredo J. Escribano
PhD in Animal Production
March 10, 2018
Joe Magadi I agree, the balance of fatty acids to optimize digestibility, as well as choosing the most efficient and profitable feed strategy for every far is the key. No general recipes are valid.
Harish Dharne Harish Dharne
Specialist in Animal Nutrition
March 14, 2018
Alfredo J. Escribano

Dear Sir,

In India we have tried C16:0 80 % and remaining 15 % C18:1 and C18:2 is giving excellent results. The milk yield, milk fat is better than the calcium based fats.

star Alfredo J. Escribano Alfredo J. Escribano
PhD in Animal Production
March 14, 2018
Harish Dharne better results regarding also BCS and fertility parameters?
Was it more cost-efficient?
Under which milk quality and milk yield scenario?
Can you please share more data?
Rudra Desai Rudra Desai
Animal Nutritionist
March 14, 2018
Instead of feeding ready made fat salts why don't you feed the precursors required to bio-synthesize the fats required as energy source. It doesn't matter either 616-c18 or otherwise etc.
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