1. The effect of the level of clover intake on the vitamin A potency of milk fat has been studied, using Jersey cows from the herd of the Dairy Research Institute (N.Z.).
2. In preliminary experiments in which composite bi-weekly butterfat samples were obtained from the whole herd of thirty-eight cows no relationship could be established between level of clover intake and potency of fat produced. This was assumed to be due to the rapidity with which the level of clover intake varied, since under normal grazing management the cows were moved to a fresh paddock (which was often of widely different botanical composition from that previously grazed) after every second milking.
3. In later experiments in which three pairs of monozygous twins from the herd were used, a clear-cut relationship was established between clover intake and potency of fat produced and between clover intake and iodine value, oleic acid percentage and tocopherol content. Diets high in clover tended to depress total potency, iodine value, oleic acid percentage and tocopherol content of the fat, while diets low in clover had the reverse effect. The clover used in these experiments was mainly an improved strain of white clover containing approximately 0·03% cyanide. Repetitive experiments using improved strains of red clover produced negative results.
4. The mechanism by which diets high in clover depress fat potency, iodine value, oleic acid percentage and tocopherol content is not clear. It is suggested, however, that it may be due to (i) the low tocopherol content of clover relative to grass, (ii) the high HCN content of certain species, and (iii) the possibly lower oleic acid content. The possibility is also considered that it may be due to some factor (or group of factors) associated with the stage of development of the pasture as a whole at a time when clover happens to be the dominant pasture species.
5. Drenching cows with thiocyanate, the probable detoxication product of HCN in the ruminant, could not be shown to have any effect on the levels of vitamin A alcohol, ester, carotene, or xanthophyll in the blood and milk fat.
Some of the results of this investigation form a section of a thesis submitted by one of us (N.A. W.) in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of M.Agr.Sc. of the University of New Zealand. The authors are indebted to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for a grant towards the investigation and to Mr M. R. Patchell and farm staff of The Dairy Research Institute (N.Z.) for assistance in collection of milk and blood samples. The technical assistance of Miss Fay Frecklington is gratefully acknowledged.