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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Animal Genomics for Animal Health (AGAH 2010)

Open Access Proceedings

Dietary unsaturated fatty acids affect the mammary gland integrity and health in lactating dairy cows

Núria Mach1*, Jürgen van Baal2, Leo Kruijt1, Antoon Jacobs2 and Mari Smits1

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen UR Livestock Research, P.O. Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands

2 Animal Nutrition Group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands

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BMC Proceedings 2011, 5(Suppl 4):S35  doi:10.1186/1753-6561-5-S4-S35

Published: 3 June 2011



Information about the effects of unsaturated fatty acids (UFA) supplementation on the health and integrity of the mammary gland in lactating dairy cows is lacking. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the effects of unprotected dietary UFA on the global expression pattern of genes in the mammary gland tissue of grazing dairy cows, and to translate this information into relevant biological knowledge.


Twenty-eight Holstein-Friesian dairy cows were randomly assigned to 4 different concentrated UFA-sources for 23 days after which all cows were switched to a non-UFA-supplemented concentrate for an additional 28 days. On the last day of both periods, mammary gland biopsies were taken to study genome-wide differences in gene expression on Bovine Genome Arrays.


Supplementation with UFA reduced the concentration of short chain fatty acids (FA), C16 FA and saturated FA in the milk, whereas that of trans-FA increased. One major finding was that canonical pathways associated with remodelling and immune functions of the mammary gland were predominantly down-regulated during UFA supplementation and negatively correlated with the concentration of milk trans-FA.


Supplementing grazing dairy cows with unprotected dietary UFA can affect the remodelling and immune functions of the mammary gland with potential consequences for its integrity and health, as well as milk quality.