The aim of the present study was to compare the effects of post-ruminally infused fat supplements, varying in fatty acid (FA) chain length, on animal performance, metabolism and milk FA. Eleven multiparous Holstein dairy cows were used in a replicated incomplete 3 × 3 Latin square design with 7-d periods, separated by 7-d washouts. Treatments were administered as abomasal infusions of enrichments providing 280 g/d of FA: (1) palmitic acid (98·4 % 16 : 0; PA), (2) caprylic and capric acids (56·2 % 8 : 0, 43·8 % 10 : 0; medium-chain TAG (MCT)) and (3) stearic acid (99·0 % 18 : 0; SA). Relative to PA, SA decreased the efficiency of fat-corrected milk production, which was associated with a tendency for higher DM intake and lower FA absorption with SA, whereas MCT was not different from PA for these variables. Milk fat concentration and yield were increased by PA relative to SA, but only fat yield tended to be greater relative to MCT. Relative to PA, MCT increased milk fat concentration of FA < 16 C, whereas SA increased FA > 16 C. Expression of mammary stearoyl-coA desaturase 1 was lower with SA than with PA. Relative to PA, liver expression of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase-1 and pyruvate kinase was increased with MCT, whereas expression of these genes tended to be increased by SA. The mechanism of increased fat secretion with PA does not seem to be related to a modulation of the expression of lipogenesis-related genes, but rather to increased substrate availability as reflected by milk FA profile.