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.

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