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Effect of fenugreek seed powder supplementation (Trigonella foenum-graecum) on lactational performance from Holstein cows in semi-arid climate

H Yerou1,2, B Belgherbi2, M Zoghlami1,2, I Belhadj Slimen3, T Najar3 and M Chniter3

1 Département des Sciences Agronomiques, Faculté SNV Université de Mustapha Stambouli, Mascara 29000 Algérie
2 Laboratoire Géo Environnement et développement des espaces Université de Mascara
3 Institut Nationale Agronomique Tunis, INAT, 1082 Tunis, Tunisie


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of the addition of crushed fenugreek seeds on the milk yield and the physico-chemical and bacteriological quality of raw milk from Holstein cows in early lactation. For this purpose, three groups of five cows each were formed. The control group received a regular daily ration without fenugreek. The second and third experimental groups got the control ration plus 50 g and 100 g of crushed fenugreek seeds, respectively, for 12 weeks. The cows in the supplementation groups had a significant increase in daily milk yield, fat, and protein levels, as well as improvements in total mesophilic flora load in milk and udder health. The use of the phytogenic additive crushed fenugreek (50 and 100 g/cow/day) stimulates the lactation performance of Holstein dairy cows and improves feed efficiency. The supplementation of cows with fenugreek led to an improvement in the income of dairy farmers, due to the quantitative and qualitative deficiency of fodder as well as the high cost of feed.

Keywords: fenugreek, Holstein, lactation traits, health mammal, semi-arid climate


Dairy cattle breeding systems in semi-arid areas of North Africa, and particularly in Algeria, are exposed to climate change and water scarcity, whose impacts on forage production and technical-economic performance are certain (Yerou et al 2021; Zoghlami et al 2022). The availability of good-quality fodder is limited by water and weather conditions, which is a factor that limits the production of dairy cows. Small and medium-sized dairy farms have a cow herd of less than 10 head with off-farm management based on conventional roughage (hay, straw) and concentrates. The technical and economic results in dairy cowsheds are poor, (Kaouche et al 2015; Yozmane et al 2019; Yerou et al 2019; Meskini et al 2022), with feeding being the main technical constraint penalizing the income of farmers. Feed costs are the highest expense item, exceeding 75%, with a forage calendar based on poor-quality roughages and high quantities of concentrates. Indeed, currently and everywhere in the world, animal production is facing new challenges. Animal feed uses more or less elaborate products called additives. These new components are products that have a favorable effect on improving the efficiency of rations distributed and the zootechnical performance of livestock. Also, animal production needs to meet the growing quality standards of consumers. In this context, more emphasis is placed on the protection of human and animal health and, to a certain extent, the environment. Globally, there is a growing trend to use plant parts such as leaves and seeds that contain bioactive compounds such as essential oils, saponins, and tannins in animal production. Certainly, the search of feeding practices that improve the efficiency of conventionally distributed rations can lead to the use of natural feed additives based on aromatic plants and seeds. The works of (Balgees et al 2013; Matloup et al 2017; Morsy et al 2018; Eid Mohamed Mahmoud et al 2020; Kholif and al 2021), confirm that plant-based feed additives are used in animal feeding to cover essential nutrient requirements, increase feed intake, optimize rations, and improve overall animal performance. The inclusion of seeds of certain plants in dairy cow rations improves the zootechnical parameters (palatability, digestibility, production, and overall health) and economic performance.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a Leguminosae angiosperm plant native to North Africa and the Middle East. According to (Ahmad et al 2016; Bahmani et al 2016), the seeds contain carbohydrates (58%) and proteins (22 to 25%) and low in lipids (6 to 10%), and are rich in micronutrients (vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B9, and C, as well as minerals like iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc). Fenugreek seeds have been used in traditional medicine and are known for their content of alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, amino acids, tannins, and some steroidal glycosides as well as proteins (Fuller and Stephens 2015; Bahmani et al 2016; Degirmencioglu et al 2016; Revathi et al 2020). Several studies have found that fenugreek has a positive effect on lactaion performance in dairy ruminants (cows, buffaloes, and goats) due to its galactogogue property, giving this plant a use for improving dairy performance (EL-Basheir 2015; Al-Sherwany 2015; Mahgoub and Sallam 2016; Degirmencioglu et al 2016; Akbag et al 2022).

In a context of growing interest in organic and eco-responsible animal production, the objective of this research was to characterize the influence of supplementation with fenugreek seeds (Trigonella fænumgræcum L.) in the diet of Holstein dairy cows conducted in a semi-arid climate in order to boost lactational performance as a strategy to improve ruminal fermentation and reduce production costs in the dairy barn.

Materials and methods

Study site

The experimental trial was done in a semi-arid part of northwest Algeria, between 35°07' and 35°31' north latitude and between 0°0' and 0°26' east longitude. A breeding farm adhered to the milk collection network of the industrial milk processing unit belonging to the inter-professional milk group GIPLAIT of Mascara in Algeria.

Animals, treatments and experimental design

For 12 weeks, fifteen Holstein dairy cows were randomly assigned to one of three experimental diets at 7 days postpartum, with an average live weight of 520 ± 41.3 kg. The control group FS0 (without fenugreek) and the treatment groups (FS50 and FS100) with the supplementation of crushed fenugreek seeds mixed with the concentrated ration at the rate of 50 g and 100 g per cow and per day, respectively.

The cows have free access to fresh drinking water and a ration composed of vetch-oat fodder and concentrate for dairy cows according to the feed ration recommendations for dairy cows according to the French food system, whose expression requirements and intakes for ruminants are based, for energy and proteins, on the UFL and PDI systems (INRA 2007).

Chemical composition

Samples of used forages and concentrates are taken for chemical composition according to the AOAC (1990). Table 1 illustrates the nutritive values of the feeds estimated according to the sequential approach based on estimation of digestibility of organic matter (dMO) and fermentability of organic matter (MOF). Subsequently, the milk fodder unit (UFL), protein PDIE, and PDIN were calculated from estimation equations according to (INRA 2007; Chibani et al 2010).

Table 1. Nutritive values of basal ration (kg DM)

Basal ration












UFL-milk feed unit; PDIE-intestinal digestible protein allowed by energy; PDIN-intestinal digestible protein allowed by nitrogen

The chemical composition of the used fenugreek seeds is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Chemical composition of fenugreek seeds on a DM basis (%).













DM- dry matter; CP- crude protein; EE- ether extract; CE- cellulose; CA- crude ash; ME-metabolizable energy (Kcal kg-1)

Cows were mechanically milked twice a day at 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. A milk sample was taken from each cow during the morning milking. TB (g/kg), TP (g/kg), lactose, and EST (total dry extract) were measured automatically with a Lactoscan SP milk analyzer. The electrical conductivity of sample milk was measured with a conductivity meter (mS/cm), and the total microbial load expressed in Log FMAT was enumerated on PCA agar incubated for 24 h at 30°C. The flora count was expressed in CFU (Colony Forming Unit).

Statistical analysis

Statistical analyses were performed using the SPSS software with a complete randomized design: Yij= μ + Si+ E ij Where Yij: represents the observation of the dependent variable, μ: is the General mean for the variable, Si: is the effect of fenugreek supplementation, and Eij: is the random effect associated with the observation.

Results and discussion

Effect of fenugreek seeds

During the experimental period, the average milk yield in the fenugreek supplemented groups (FS50 and FS100, respectively) was 9.5% and 6.9% higher than in the control group FS0 (Table 3). The milk performance of the fed cows with a daily ration of supplemented fenugreek was higher (P < 0.05) than that of the control diet (12.7; 12.4 and 11.6 kg day-1). Increased milk yield in groups supplemented with crushed fenugreek (FS50 and FS100) can be explained by the plant galactological effect of fenugreek. These findings are consistent with previous research in dairy ruminants supplemented with fenugreek seeds at doses ranging from 2.5 to 210 g/kg/day (Balgees et al 2013; Al-Sherwany 2015; Degirmencioglu et al 2016; Mahgoub and Sallam 2016; Kirar et al 2020).

Table 3. Effect of Fenugreek supplementation on milk traits





DMY, kg day −1

11.6±0.89 b

12.7±0.9 a

12.4±0.97 a

TB, g kg −1

33.2±2.1 b

31.6±2.7 a

29.8±2.34 a

TP, g kg −1

29.8±1.9 b

30.2±2.2 a

29.7±2.3 a

Lactose, g kg −1

39.2±2.5 a

39.7±2.6 a

39.3±2.4 a

EST, g kg −1

116 ±5 a

117 ±5 a

115 ±6 a

CE, −1

6.25± 0.54 a

5.64± 0.52 a

5.34± 0.51 a


5.54 ±0.25 b

4.60 ±0.28 a

4.78 ±0.29 a

DMY-Daily milk yield; TB-Butyrate; TP-Protein; Lactose; EST-Total dry matter; CE (mS/cm)- Electrical conductivity; Log FMAT (UFC)- Total mesophilic aeorobic flora; Significant difference between columns (p<0.05)

Trial (2003) explains the stimulating effect of diosgenin from fenugreek seeds, which is similar to the estrogen hormone that leads to increased milk flow. Moreover, the qualitative variations of the recorded milk indicate a drop in fat content and an increase in the protein level for the supplemented groups (FS50 and FS100) compared to the control group FS0 (TB: 33.2; 31.6 ; 20.8 g/Kg and for TP: 29.8; 30.2 ; 29.7 g/Kg, respectively). Furthermore, no significant effect was recorded for lactose or total dry matter. Scientific research on supplementation of rations with fenugreek seeds as a feed additive in ruminants exposes a relative variation in the composition of milk with a trend towards increased lactose by fenugreek supplementation.

The results obtained in different research works (Al-Janabi 2012; Fitouhi et al 2013; Balgees et al 2013; Al-Sherwany 2015; Mahgoub and Sallam 2016; Akbag et al 2022) confirmed a decrease in fat and a rise in milk protein content in dairy ruminants (buffaloes, ewes, and goats) receiving fenugreek seeds in different forms. This decrease in milk fat content could be due to the boost in milk yield. The first mechanism explaining the relationship between fenugreek seed supplementation and performance lactational behavior in ruminant dairy is due to an increase in ration intake under the action of fenugreek steroid saponins that stimulate feed intake which, promotes the availability of nutrients for milk synthesis; thus, fenugreek is also known to stimulate appetite (Akbari et al 2012; Degirmencioglu et al 2016). In addition, according to Busquet et al (2006), the use of fenugreek extract causes a qualitative modification of the volatile fatty acids (VFA) produced, while leaving the total production of VFA unchanged, with an increase in the propionate profile and a reduction in the concentration of ammoniacal nitrogen. Regarding the second mechanism determining the impact of fenugreek supplementation, it is of hormonal origin linked to an increase in prolactin concentration (Mahgoub and Sallam 2016). Indeed, according to Macias and Hinck (2012), the increase in pituitary prolactin secretion is frequently cited to explain the galactological and estrogenic effect of fenugreek via the direct action of a saponin (diosgenin) at the pituitary level. Therefore, the direct estrogenic effect at the mammary level promotes lactocyte proliferation and survival.

Bacteriological and sanitary criteria of udder

Bacteriological quality of milk and the cow health status as measured by FMAT count and electrical conductivity (EC) showed a significant effect (p< 0.05) in favor of fenugreek-supplemented rations (FS50 and FS100) with mean values of FMAT (4.60 and 4.78 CFU) and EC (5.64 and 5.34 mS/cm), respectively. These results show that adding fenugreek seed improves the quality of the bacteria and the health of the udders in the treated groups. According to the classification adopted by (Hamman and Zecconi1998; Mir and Sadki 2018), EC values below 6 mS/cm indicate a healthy udder condition. Indeed, Bhargav et al (2021) report that the cumin seed supplementation improves the udder health in the treated group. In addition, several studies on the use of fenugreek reveal its therapeutic potential and inhibitory effect on bacterial growth (Snehlata and Payal 2012; Sharma et al 2016; Yasmeen and Shashakumar 2019; Visuvanathan et al 2022). Fenugreek contains chemical compounds like alkaloids, tannins, and flavonoids with antibacterial action.


The results of this research show the supplementation of fenugreek seeds in conventional rations distributed to Holstein cows kept in soilless conditions in Algerian semi-arid conditions resulted in a significant increase in daily milk yield in the order of 8% per day. This study found that fenugreek supplementation improved zootechnical performance during the ascending phase of lactation in a real-world breeding situation. Therefore, the use of a ration enriched with fenugreek seeds can be an alternative to improve milk production on small and medium dairy farms.


The authors thank the breeders of the raw milk collection network of the public company GIPLAIT of Mascara-Algeria, for their kind support and confidence for the realization of this research, as well as the persons in charge of the agricultural and veterinary services for their support.


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