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A metabolomics analysis of inter-species and seasonal trends in ruminant milk: the molecular difference between bovine, caprine and ovine milk

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posted on 2024-06-26, 02:44 authored by Diana CabreraDiana Cabrera, Karl FraserKarl Fraser, Nicole Roy

Ruminant milk composition can be impacted by many factors, primarily inter-species differences, but also environmental factors (e.g., season, feeding system and feed composition). Pasture-based feeding systems are known to be influenced by seasonal effects on grass composition. Spring pasture is rich in protein and low in fiber compared with late-season pasture, potentially inducing variability in the composition of some milk metabolites across the season. This study aimed to investigate inter-species and seasonal differences in the milk metabolome across the 3 major commercial ruminant milk species from factories in New Zealand: bovine, caprine and ovine milk. Bovine and caprine raw milk samples were collected monthly for a period of 9 mo (August–April, 2016–2017; bovine n = 41, caprine n = 44 samples); while ovine milk samples were collected for a period of 5 mo (August–January, n = 20 samples). Milk samples were subjected to biphasic extraction, and untargeted metabolite profiling was performed using 2 separate liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry analytical methods (polar metabolites and lipids). Major differences in milk metabolome were observed between the 3-ruminant species, with 414 of 587 (71%) polar metabolite features and 210 of 233 (87%) lipid features significantly different between species. Significant seasonal trends were observed in the polar metabolite fraction for bovine, caprine and ovine milk (17, 24 and 32 metabolites, respectively), suggesting that the polar metabolite relative intensities of ovine and caprine milk were more susceptible to changes within seasons than bovine milk. There was no significant seasonal difference for the triglycerides (TG) species measured in bovine milk, while 3 and 52 TG species changed in caprine and ovine milk, respectively, across the seasons. Four phosphatidylcholines and 2 phosphatidylethanolamines varied in caprine milk within the season, and 8 diglycerides varied in ovine milk. The inter-species and seasonal metabolite differences reported here provide a knowledge base of components potentially linked to milk physiochemical properties, and potential health benefits of New Zealand pasture-fed dairy ingredients.


AgResearch Strategic Science Investment Fund (contract A25773)


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© TBC, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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  • Non revenue


  • English

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  • No



Journal title

Journal of Dairy Science



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