Study links milk farm chemical input to nutrient kick

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Linoleic acid

Lower input non-organic and organically produced milk has been
found to contain significantly higher levels of beneficial fatty
acids, vitamins and antioxidants compared to higher chemical use
sources, a new UK study claims.

The findings, partly produced by Newcastle University-based organic researcher the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group, will further fuel the debate over the respective health benefits of milk sources to product quality. Scientists from the Danish Institute for Agricultural Science cooperated on the study as part of an ongoing European project into low input food production, particularly related to animal health and welfare. 'Desirable' fatty acids ​ The report, which looked at variable input, organically certified and non-organic sustainable farming practices in the contrasting regions of South Wales and the North-East of England, established a link between nutrient presence and farming types. According to the study, higher levels of 'desirable' fatty acids like CLA9, omega-3 and linolenic acid and the antioxidants/vitamins vitamin E and carotenoids were found in low input non-organic and organic milk. Lower input farming, relates to the reduced use, and possible complete elimination, of chemical-based fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides in the food supply. Compared to the higher input system, organic and non-organic milks showed a 60 per cent and 99 per cent increase respectively in the presence of conjugated linoleic acids to high input yields in the testing. The presence of carotenoids in the same samples were also found to be 33 per cent and 50 per cent higher respectively. Similarly, lower levels of more fatty acids like omega-6 and CLA10, which are linked to detrimental health impacts were found in organic milk, Nafferton claimed. Seasonal differences ​ Another pattern linked to the samples, which were taken in August and October, 2004 and January, March and May of 2005, was the affect of seasonal production and grazing to indoor feeding on milk nutrients. "Milk composition differed significantly between the two low-input systems during the second half of the grazing period only; with milk from non-organic cows being higher in antioxidants, and conjugated linoleic acid, and that from organic cows in -linolenic acid,"​ the report stated. "In contrast, few significant differences in composition were detected between high-input and low-input organic systems when cows were housed."​ Researchers on the test ,which is published online in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, studied 109 nine samples of milk from 25 commercial farms from two specific regions of the UK to discern potential affects of production method on product quality. Another pattern linked to the samples, which were taken in August and October, 2004 and January, March and May of 2005, was the effect of seasonal and indoor-outdoor feeding practices. Low-input studies ​ According to the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group, the low input farms tested in Wales, though not organic, used certain mineral-based fertilisers and shorter withdrawal periods after antibiotic use on cattle. As part of cost reduction, the same group of farmers also calved their cows during spring and fed them during lactation from March until November, stepping up their fresh grass intake, the researchers added. Source: Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture​ Published online ahead of print "Fatty acid and fat-soluble antioxidant concentrations in milk from high- and low-input conventional and organic systems: seasonal variation"​Authors: Gillian Butler, Jacob H Nielsen, et al.

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