Adaptation responses in milk fat yield and methane emissions of dairy cows when wheat was included in their diet for 16 weeks Academic Article uri icon


  • Short-term studies have shown that feeding dairy cows diets containing a high proportion (>40%) of wheat may result in reduced milk fat concentration and reduced CH4 emissions (g of CH4/cow per d), but no long-term studies have been done on these responses. This study compared the milk production and CH4 responses when 24 dairy cows were fed diets containing high proportions of either wheat or corn over 16 wk. Cows were assigned to 2 groups and offered a diet (CRN) containing 10.0 kg of dry matter/d of crushed corn grain, 1.8 kg of dry matter/d of canola meal, 0.2 kg of dry matter/d of minerals, and 11.0 kg of dry matter/d of chopped alfalfa hay or a similar diet (WHT) in which wheat replaced the corn. Dry matter intake and milk yields of individual cows were measured daily. Methane emissions from individual cows were measured using controlled climate respiration chambers over 2 consecutive days during each of wk 4, 10, and 16. Milk composition was measured on the 2 d when cows were in chambers during wk 4, 10, and 16. Over the 16-wk experimental period, total dry matter intake remained relatively constant and similar for the 2 dietary treatment groups. At wk 4, CH4 emission, CH4 yield (g of CH4/kg of dry matter intake), milk fat yield, and milk fat concentration were substantially less in cows fed the WHT diet compared with the same metrics in cows fed the CRN diet; but these differences were not apparent at wk 10 and 16. The responses over time in these metrics were not similar in all cows. In 4 cows fed the WHT diet, CH4 yield, milk fat concentration, and milk fat yield remained relatively constant from wk 4 to 16, whereas for 5 fed the WHT diet, their CH4 emissions, milk fat yields, and milk fat concentrations almost doubled between wk 4 and 16. In the short term (4 wk), the inclusion of approximately 45% wheat instead of corn in the diet of cows resulted in reductions of 39% in CH4 yield, 35% in milk fat concentration, and 40% in milk fat yield. However, these reductions did not persist to wk 10 or beyond. Our data indicate that cows do not all respond in the same way with some "adaptive" cows showing a marked increase in CH4 yield, milk fat concentration, and milk fat yield after wk 4, whereas in other "nonadaptive" cows, these metrics were persistently inhibited to 16 wk. This research shows that short-term studies on dietary interventions to mitigate enteric CH4 emissions may not always predict the long-term effects of such interventions.


  • Moate, PJ
  • Jacobs, JL
  • Hannah, MC
  • Morris, GL
  • Beauchemin, KA
  • Alvarez Hess, PS
  • Eckard, RJ
  • Liu, Z
  • Rochfort, Simone
  • Wales, WJ
  • Williams, SRO

publication date

  • 2018