At a time when many people are leaving money on the table when it comes to butterfat depression, researchers at Kansas State University have come up with a possible new strategy: molasses.

In a research study, the replacement of up to 5 percent of the corn grains with molasses on a dry-matter basis helped offset some of the milkfat depression that might have occurred had none of the corn been replaced and the cows were left with a ration that was extremely high in energy.

To that extent, it acted like an insurance policy. When molasses was added, the cows’ milkfat content was about 10 percent higher than control cows, and their milkfat yield (kilograms/day) was about 5 percent higher. The yield advantage wasn’t quite as dramatic as milkfat content or percentage, because total milk yield was down slightly with the experimental diets.

And, protein yield was down in one of the two trials. In this case — with protein down in one trial, but not in another — the effect of molasses on protein was inconclusive, says one of the lead researchers, Barry Bradford, of Kansas State University. But, this particular study focused on milkfat and the possible role molasses can have in reducing milkfat depression. Bradford says molasses has the potential to help dairy farmers for a couple of reasons:

  • It alters the biohydrogenation pathway in the rumen to promote milkfat production.
  • It makes the ration a little wetter and stickier, which helps bind large and small particles together and keep cows from sorting through the ration.

The research was reported in the August edition of the Journal of Dairy Science.