Inversion of a paradigm: The positive roles of plant phenolics in dairy goat nutrition

S. Y. Landau, O. Hadaya, H. Muklada, N. Argov-Argaman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paradigm prevailing in the nineties, based on studies with goats fed tannin-rich browse as sole feed, was that dietary tannins are associated with impaired feed intake, increased fecal loss of N, and impaired NDF digestibility, hence, impaired productivity, with much research aiming at alleviating these negative effects. However, dairy goats fed plant phenolic-rich diets, and supplemented with concentrates will voluntarily ingest diets comprising more than 4% of tannins, without impairment of total feed intake and milk yield. Also, supplementing them with Poly (ethylene-glycol) MW 4000 is not needed. All plant phenolics, including condensed tannins, are partly digested, inferring that phenolic derivatives are absorbed and may reach tissues. In some studies, diets rich in plant phenolics are associated with the production of milk richer in protein and fat, reduced urea content, and improved curdling performance. Feeding goats with plant phenolics-rich diets is generally associated with inhibited bio-hydrogenation (BH) of fatty acids (FA) in the rumen, resulting in decreased saturated FA, increased polyunsaturated FA (PUFA) and, in particular C18:3–n3 but also a modified composition of de novo synthesized FA in goat milk that suggest direct action of phenolics on the mammary gland. Knowledge of the absorption of plant phenolics is still scarce for goats but even modest daily intakes seem to be associated with increased phenolic derivatives and anti-oxidative activity in plasma and milk. Dietary phenolic compounds may induce a local effect in the mammary gland and its production units (the mammary epithelium cells) encompassing increased cellular triglyceride and casein contents, and increased ATP production and non-mitochondrial oxygen consumption. Plant phenolics and their derivatives divert energy to production of milk fat, protein and lactose, with less energy directed to cellular damage control. Dietary plant phenolics are associated with improved goat health and production of healthier milk. In addition, dietary plant phenolics have anti-parasitic properties and are environment-friendly as they decrease gut methane emission and they increase fecal N at the expense of rapidly decomposable urinary N. Therefore, the attitude of scientists towards feeding plant phenolics has evoluted from mostly negative to mostly positive.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number107036
JournalSmall Ruminant Research
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Caprine
  • Milk composition
  • Plant specialized metabolites
  • Polyphenol
  • Tannin

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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