Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Animal Performance and Feed Efficiency
Fatty acids, like amino acids, minerals and vitamins are nutrients required by the animal for maintenance and growth. Fatty acids are used by animals for energy, cell membrane structure and integrity. Essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the animal in adequate amounts for specific physiological processes such as growth and reproduction and must be included in the animal’s diet.
Cattle, sheep, and horses, like most mammals, cannot synthesize the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid. Linoleic acid is classified as an omega-6 fatty acid, while alpha-linolenic acid belongs to the omega-3 family of fatty acids. These two fatty acids are vital components of cell membranes and serve as precursors for biologically active metabolites called eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are 20-carbon fatty acids that affect inflammation and thus the immune system plus other essential functions such as reproduction.