Effect of 2-hydroxy-4-(methylthio)butanoate (HMTBa) on milk fat, rumen environment and biohydrogenation, and rumen protozoa in lactating cows fed diets with increased risk for milk fat depression

M. Baldin, D. Garcia, G. I. Zanton, F. Hao, A. D. Patterson, K. J. Harvatine

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3 Scopus citations


Biohydrogenation-induced milk fat depression (MFD) is a reduction in milk fat synthesis caused by bioactive fatty acids (FA) produced during altered ruminal microbial metabolism of unsaturated FA. The methionine analog 2-hydroxy-4-(methylthio)butanoate (HMTBa) has been shown to reduce the shift to the alternate biohydrogenation pathway and maintain higher milk fat yield in high-producing cows fed diets lower in fiber and higher in unsaturated FA. The objective of this experiment was to verify the effect of HMTBa on biohydrogenation-induced MFD and investigate associated changes in rumen environment and fermentation. Twenty-two rumen cannulated high-producing Holstein cows [168 ± 66 d in milk; 42 ± 7 kg of milk/d (mean ± standard deviation)] were used in a randomized design performed in 2 blocks (1 = 14 cows, 2 = 8 cows). Treatments were control (corn carrier) and HMTBa (0.1% of diet dry matter). The experiment included a 7-d covariate period followed by 3 phases that fed diets with increasing risk of MFD. The diet during the covariate and low-risk phase (7 d) was 32% neutral detergent fiber with no additional oil. The diet during the moderate-risk phase (17 d) was 29% neutral detergent fiber with 0.75% soybean oil. Soybean oil was increased to 1.5% for the last 4 d. The statistical model included the random effect of block and time course data were analyzed with repeated measures including the random effect of cow and tested the interaction of treatment and time. There was no effect of block or interaction of block and treatment or time. There was no overall effect of treatment or treatment by time interaction for dry matter intake, milk yield, and milk protein concentration and yield. Overall, HMTBa increased milk fat percent (3.2 vs. 3.6%) and yield (1,342 vs. 1,543 g/d) and there was no interaction of treatment and dietary phase. Additionally, HMTBa decreased the concentration of trans-10 18:1 in milk fat and rumen digesta. Average total ruminal concentration of volatile FA across the day and total-tract dry matter and fiber digestibility were not affected by HMTBa, but HMTBa increased average rumen butyrate and decreased propionate concentration and increased total protozoa abundance. Additionally, HMTBa increased the fractional rate of α-linoleic acid clearance from the rumen following a bolus predominantly driven by a difference in the first 30 min. Plasma insulin was decreased by HMTBa. In conclusion, HMTBa prevented the increase in trans FA in milk fat associated with MFD through a mechanism that is independent of total volatile FA concentration, but involves modification of rumen biohydrogenation. Decreased propionate and increased butyrate and ruminal protozoa may also have functional roles in the mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7446-7461
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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