Fat is an essential component in animal and human diets. The essential fatty acids are the critical components of fats and one very important fatty acid is the omega-3 derivative, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Humans originally consumed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fatty acids because pasture based animals had much higher contents of omega-3 fatty acids than do the present-day commercial livestock. In humans, DHA omega-3 is related to enhanced cognitive function and learning ability in children, including benefits for children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In addition, DHA omega-3 improves the health of adults by lowering the risk of developing cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s diseases, and lessening severity of depression. Adequate supplies of DHA are required for infant development and the content of DHA in breast milk is influenced by the diet of the mother.
Today researchers are looking to increase the supply of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids to the human diet through feeding the animal and thus providing the DHA naturally. By adding DHA omega-3 in algal meal to the animal diet, we can also positively influence the health and wellbeing of the animal.
The metabolic demands for increasing milk production are significant and represent a major challenge to ensure optimum production while also facilitating reproduction. Dietary nutrients and nutrients from body tissues are directed to milk production. During this same time, the uterus, ovary, and hypothalamus/pituitary glands undergo a process of recovery and rebuilding for the establishment of subsequent pregnancy (Thatcher et al., 2011). Dietary formulations targeted for the benefit of reproductive performance represent a major challenge. Fat supplementation has been slowly developing a record of data for reproductive effects (Thatcher et al., 2011). The decrease in fertility of the lactating dairy cow is multi-factorial and often associated with high milk production (Lucy, 2001; Santos et al. 2008). The energy costs to synthesize and secrete hormones, ovulate a follicle, and sustain an early developing embryo are probably minimal compared to the energy needs for maintenance and lactation.
In recent years studies have examined the effects of feeding algal meal, high in DHA, on feed intake, enteric methane production and milk parameters (Boeckaert et al., 2008; Stamey et al., 2012; Moate et al, 2013). It has been demonstrated that feeding algal meal may inhibit voluntary dry matter intake and reduce milk fat concentrations (Moate et al., 2013).