Megalac is an industry leader in global dairy feed fat nutrition

Dr Richard Kirkland, global technical manager for Volac Wilmar, with Prof Don Palmquist at the 2023 American Dairy Science Association conference in Ottawa, Canada. Prof Palmquist’s lab at Ohio State University developed the calcium salt technology which resulted in a rumen-insoluble supplement. This technology was commercialised by Volac for the first production of Megalac in the early 1980s.

Forty years after it first rolled off the manufacturing line, Volac Wilmar‘s flagship rumen-protected fat supplement, Megalac, continues to be a global leader in feed fat nutrition and one of the biggest brands in global agriculture.

According to Dr Richard Kirkland, global technical manager for Volac Wilmar (VW), the long-standing success has been a result of the company remaining at the forefront of feed fat research and the development of proven feeding solutions for dairy farmers.

“Fat is one of the key macro-nutrients in dairy production, and considerable research on animal requirements has been conducted over several decades,” Dr Kirkland said.

“However, it was clear that adding higher levels of oils, or higher fat ingredients, to rations had detrimental effects on fibre digestibility and milk fat.”

The calcium salt technology developed by Professor Don Palmquist’s lab at Ohio State University in the United States, combined fatty acids with calcium, producing a rumen-insoluble supplement.

Using this technology, Megalac was commercialised by Volac as the first calcium salt rumen-protected feed fat supplement, enabling dairy farmers to take advantage of the energy density benefits of fat without disrupting rumen function and fibre digestibility.

Megalac has become a household name in global dairy production, being fed on dairy farms on every continent and all the major dairy countries globally.

Growth in the marketplace has been driven by extensive independent research at universities and by VW and its partners, Dr Kirkland said.

“A groundbreaking area of research has been the discovery that specific fatty acids influence multiple areas of cow production such as nutrient partitioning, body condition, fertility, milk fat and milk yield,” he said.

Oleic acid (C18:1) helps partition nutrients toward body fat stores, reducing body condition loss in the critical early lactation period.

This fatty acid also improves total fat digestibility and can enhance fertility through improved egg and embryo development.

For improving milk fat production and yield, palmitic acid (C16:0) is particularly beneficial, however, research shows increased production in early lactation through C16:0 supplementation can come at the expense of additional body condition and weight loss, so care must be taken if supplementing with higher levels of C16:0 through early lactation.

According to Dr Kirkland, VW continues to invest in fat nutrition research, with new areas exploring the benefits of rumen-protected fats on reducing methane production underway.

“VW will continue to invest in understanding the influence of fatty acids in ruminant diets to help farmers optimise on-farm production while overcoming new challenges,” he said.