Feed-derived iodine overrides environmental contribution to cow milk

C. McKernan, C. Meharg*, M. Carey, E. Donaldson, P. Williams, L. Savage, A. A. Meharg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


Diets worldwide are deficient in iodine, leading to a range of undesirable health effects at the population level. Dairy products are a primary source of iodine in diets for those populations in which iodized salt is not systematically used or available. However, the flows of iodine through dairy agroecosystems are not well understood. The aim of this research was to investigate iodine flows though the dairy agroecosystem, including the influence of atmospheric depositional inputs, environmental variables, season, husbandry, and diet. Three farm-based sampling campaigns were carried out in this investigation, with milk, soil, silage, grass, and feed iodine determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy, and nonparametric statistical analysis tests were conducted on data sets obtained. Natural iodine inputs into the environment are dominated by atmospheric deposition, which mainly from sea spray, and thus the location of farms relative to the coast and prevailing wind direction. Herbage and silage produced from grass-based systems strongly correlated with soil iodine, yet there was a strong disconnect between soil, forage, and feed and the milk that results. This was due to the levels of iodine in supplemental feeds being approximately 10-fold higher than those in forage-derived feeds. The practice of feed supplementation, accentuated by summer housing of cows, led to elevated milk iodine.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Early online date28 May 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 28 May 2020


  • cow
  • iodine
  • milk
  • silage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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