A two-year trial involving dairy farms in South West Wales could help grass-based producers gain a market advantage from higher levels of beneficial fatty acids in certain types of milk.
Seimon Thomas and Tom Harris are two of the 20 farms involved as part of the European Innovation Programme (EIP) Wales project which is examining the complete fatty acid profile of milk produced.
The results could give them and other dairy farmers the opportunity to develop forage-based solutions to produce milk with enhanced levels of beneficial fatty acids such as omega-3.
Mr Thomas runs a herd of 900 Dairy Shorthorns at Drysgolgoch, Llanfyrnach, with his wife, Eleanor, and their children, Sion and Hanna.
He says: “If we can substantiate where the omega-3 advantages exist, it will provide opportunities to incorporate this message into the branding and marketing of our milk.”
Milk and forage samples from the 20 farms are submitted on a monthly basis to the Institute of Biological and Environmental Research (IBERS) at Aberystwyth together with a questionnaire on feeding practices at the time of sampling.
The farmers involved in the project have diverse systems ranging from herds which are housed in winter and graze in summer, herds housed all-year round to organic herds.
Some fully housed herds are also practicing zero grazing where fresh grass is harvested daily for the cows.
The group supply their milk to different milk buyers and processors, including commodity liquid milk, premium organic liquid milk, cheese manufacturers and high value food ingredient manufacturers.
These outlets could all potentially take advantage of the project results by marketing milk for its higher omega-3 content.
At Ffosyficer near Abercych, the project will focus on milk from Tom and Francisca
Harris’ herd of autumn calving Holstein Friesians.
Their family produces the Daioni range of organic flavoured and fresh milks.
The couple had previously contemplated funding their own study into omega-3 in milk but, as an individual business, they felt it would have proved costly due to the large amount of scientific research required to provide substantiated evidence.