Fatty Acid, Carotenoid and Fat-Soluble Vitamin Composition of Multispecies Swards Grown in Ireland—Implications for a Sustainable Feed in Dairy Farming
Rapisarda, S.; O’Neill, G.; Abu-Ghannam, N. Fatty Acid, Carotenoid and Fat-Soluble Vitamin Composition of Multispecies Swards Grown in Ireland—Implications for a Sustainable Feed in Dairy Farming. Dairy 2023, 4, 300-315.
Although traditional ryegrass pastures are still commonly used, they require intense management and input and do not perform well during the summer months. Multispecies systems have been recognised as more sustainable, needing less fertiliser and being tolerant to drought and heat. While data on monoculture system fat composition exist, information for multispecies is scarce. The present study compared the fatty acid (FA), carotenoid and fat-soluble composition of a multispecies system (consisting of perennial ryegrass, timothy, white clover, red clover, chicory and plantain) (MULTI) with two other conventional grazing systems (monoculture perennial ryegrass (PRG) and a binary mixture of perennial ryegrass and white clover (PRG+WC)) over the Irish late-summer grazing season of dairy cattle (July–September). The results showed that the three systems had similar levels of FAs (p > 0.05), with mean α-linolenic acid values of 20.00 mg/g in PRG, 18.51 mg/g in PRG+WC, and 17.90 mg/g in MULTI and mean linoleic acid values of 3.84 mg/g in PRG, 4.16 mg/g in PRG+WC, and 4.39 mg/g in MULTI. Fourfold and twofold increases in the concentrations of α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, respectively, were observed throughout July–September. Variations in stearic acid concentrations were not significant (p > 0.05), and palmitic acid concentrations increased over time (p < 0.05). The average values of lutein (36.68 mg/kg in PRG, 31.26 mg/kg in PRG+WC, and 35.75 mg/kg in MULTI) and α-tocopherol (2.28 mg/kg in PRG, 1.49 mg/kg in PRG+WC, and 1.83 mg/kg in MULTI) were similar among the grazing systems (p > 0.05), and the average β-carotene value was 25% higher in monoculture ryegrass (140.74 mg/kg) than in the multispecies (102.51 mg/kg) (p < 0.05). Nonetheless, the levels of β-carotene found in the multispecies were still above the recommended intake required for ruminants. In conclusion, multispecies pastures could be included in dairy cattle production systems as a sustainable alternative to traditional pastures while also providing typically adequate sources of fats for animal diets.