Mid-infrared prediction of bovine milk fatty acids across multiple breeds, production systems, and countries

HF Soyeurt, F Dehareng, N Gengler, S McParland, E Wall, DP Berry, MP Coffey, P Dardenne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing consumer concern exists over the relationship between food composition and human health. Because of the known effects of fatty acids on human health, the development of a quick, inexpensive, and accurate method to directly quantify the fatty acid (FA) composition in milk would be valuable for milk processors to develop a payment system for milk pertinent to their customer requirements and for farmers to adapt their feeding systems and breeding strategies accordingly. The aim of this study was (1) to confirm the ability of mid-infrared spectrometry (MIR) to quantify individual FA content in milk by using an innovative procedure of sampling (i.e., samples were collected from cows belonging to different breeds, different countries, and in different production systems); (2) to compare 6 mathematical methods to develop robust calibration equations for predicting the contents of individual FA in milk; and (3) to test interest in using the FA equations developed in milk as basis to predict FA content in fat without corrections for the slope and the bias of the developed equations. In total, 517 samples selected based on their spectral variability in 3 countries (Belgium, Ireland, and United Kingdom) from various breeds, cows, and production systems were analyzed by gas chromatography (GC). The samples presenting the largest spectral variability were used to calibrate the prediction of FA by MIR. The remaining samples were used to externally validate the 28 FA equations developed. The 6 methods were (1) partial least squares regression (PLS); (2) PLS + repeatability file (REP); (3) first derivative of spectral data + PLS; (4) first derivative + REP + PLS; (5) second derivative of spectral data + PLS; and (6) second derivative + REP + PLS. Methods were compared on the basis of the cross-validation coefficient of determination (R2cv), the ratio of standard deviation of GC values to the standard error of cross-validation (RPD), and the validation coefficient of determination (R2v). The third and fourth methods had, on average, the highest R2cv, RPD, and R2v. The final equations were built using all GC and the best accuracy was observed for the infrared predictions of C4:0, C6:0, C8:0, C10:0, C12:0, C14:0, C16:0, C18:0, C18:1 trans, C18:1 cis-9, C18:1 cis, and for some groups of FA studied in milk (saturated, monounsaturated, unsaturated, short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain FA). These equations showed R2cv greater than 0.95. With R2cv equal to 0.85, the MIR prediction of polyunsaturated FA could be used to screen the cow population. As previously published, infrared predictions of FA in fat are less accurate than those developed from FA content in milk (g/dL of milk) and no better results were obtained by using milk FA predictions if no corrections for bias and slope based on reference milk samples with known contents of FA were used. These results indicate the usefulness of equations with R2cv greater than 95% in milk payment systems and the usefulness of equations with R2cv greater than 75% for animal breeding purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1657 - 1667
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Publication statusFirst published - 2011


  • Fatty acid
  • Mid-infrared
  • Milk


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