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Click on any of the components shown above for test results and more info.

Carbohydrates in Powdered Milk



Dietary considerations


Digestible carbohydrates are essential for growth and development, as well as being a substantial source of dietary energy. Digestible carbohydrates include lactose, starches and other sugars. The types and amounts of carbohydrates vary in the milk composition of species and include lactose, oligosaccharides, glycolipids, glycoproteins, mucins. Research continues on the types, digestibility and potential consequences of various carbohydrates fed to young animals. 


Lactose, the predominant carbohydrate in milk, has been and continues to be researched extensively. It has been found to have many nutrient benefits, including a significant and sustained promoting effect on absorption of calcium and other minerals. Other carbohydrates in milk are also being found to have functions besides nutrition.


Oligosaccharides are a complex mixture of carbohydrates that make up the third most abundant constituent in milk.  They also change in concentration during the period of lactation. Milk-derived oligosaccharides have been found to help many factors in the body including to: promote immune response, influence gastrointestinal health, reduce inflammation, affect brain development, and more. In addition to being found in milk components (e.g., whey, dried cream), various oligosaccharides have been identified in vegetables, grains, honey, and more. Oligosaccharides are getting considerable attention as a food product, supplement, probiotic, medication, and more. Research on oligosaccharides is expected to offer more insights into their role in milk, as well as many other functions and sources.


Calculating carbohydrate concentrations


The lab tests and results discussed in WildAgain's research are reported values for primary dietary components such as proteins, fats and ash (minerals) as assessed in a 'Proximate Analysis.  To measure carbohydrates (as a group of sugar and starches), an equation is used to determine the value. It is referred to as a Nitrogen-free extract (NFE) and is a vital part of animal feed assessment. It is not analyzed, but rather calculated. And contrary to the name, this analysis does not pertain to nitrogen. The equation used to measure NFE is straightforward - simply subtract the concentration values for moisture, protein, fat, ash and fiber from 100. For example, for a dry milk powder, if the values for moisture (5%), protein (33%), fat (40%), ash (8%) and fiber (0%) added to 86%, then the estimated value for total carbohydrates would be 14%.


Lab tests are available to analyze and measure specific carbohydrates, such as oligosaccharides mentioned above, but are generally fairly expensive. And if such a test is performed, it may just provide the knowledge that a certain carbohydrate is either absent, or present in a measured concentration. And for most wildlife species, a baseline concentration is likely unknown.


Milk replacer analysis


The two primary manufacturers of the milk replacer products used by wildlife rehabilitators appear to approach managing carbohydrate levels using different formulations. PetAg®, with the exception of adding very small amounts of dextrose and maltodextrins, appears to manage carbohydrate levels through blending low protein value dried milk protein concentrate, dried whey concentrate and skim milk powder that have relatively high carbohydrate concentrations, primarily lactose (see second table below). Alternatively, it appears that Fox Valley chooses to formulate their products with the addition of dried corn syrup solids, and in some products, also with dried lactose. Unfortunately, since the product labels do not contain detailed information as to types and amounts of specific carbohydrates included in the formulation, the only manner to determine such data is through expensive lab testing and beyond the scope of this current research study.

Click for minerals.

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Although this table labels the carbohydrates as 'Lactose' it is presumed that amounts of other carbohydrates may also be present, although likely in very low concentrations.

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References and further reading (not intended as an exhaustive list)


Ackerman, Dorothy et al. 2016. Infant Food Applications of Complex Carbohydrates: Structure, Synthesis and Function. Carbohydrate Research. Jan 2,437, pp. 16-27


Boehm, Gunther and Bernd Stahl. 2007. Oligosaccharides from Milk. The Journal of Nutrition. V.137 (3), pp. 847-849S.


Brussow, Harald. 2013. Nutrition, population growth and disease: a history of lactose. Environmental Microbiology. V.15 (8), pp. 2154-61.


Crisa, Alessandra.2013.  Milk Carbohydrates and Oligosaccharides. Milk and Dairy Products in Human Nutrition: Production, Composition, and Health. Young Park and George Haenlein, ed. Wiley Online.


Martin, Camilla, et al. 2016. Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula. Nutrients. 8(5), pps. 


Rivero-Urgell, Manserrat, and Alica Santamaria-Orleans. 2001. Oligosaccharides: application in infant food. Early Human Development. V. 65 (2), pp. S43-S52.


Qiang, Xu et al. 2009. Health benefit application of functional oligosaccharides. Carbohydrate Polymers. V. 77 (3) pp. 435-441.


Patel, Seema. 2011. Functional oligosaccharides: Production, properties and applications. World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology. V 25(4), pp. 1119-1128.


Stephen, A., et al. 2012. The role and requirements of digestible dietary carbohydrates in infants and toddlers. V. 66(7) pp. 765-779. 


Urashima, T., K. Fukuda and M. Messer. 2012. Evolution of milk oligosacchraides and lactose: a hypothesis. Animal. V. 6(3), pp. 369-74. 


Urashima, T and O. T. Oftedal. 2017. Oligosaccharides in the Milk of Oher Mammals. Prebiotics and Probiotics in Human Milk. Messer, M, ed. Pp. 445-139. 


Warren, Christopher, et al. 2001. Comparison of Oligosaccharides in Milk Specimens from Humans and Twelve Other Species. Bioactive Components of Human Milk, Newberg, D.S (eds). Springer, Boston, MA.


Ziegler, D. and S. J. Fomon. 1983. Lactose enhances mineral absorption in infancy. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. V 2(2), pp. 288-294.

The information included on this website for the Proximate Analysis components (Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber and moisture content) is extremely narrow in its scope and nature. It is limited to certain charts and graphs displaying content values (% of total) of various powdered milk replacers as tested by an independent chemical lab. Extremely brief overview information is provided as to the primary nutritional and medical benefits of each component, as well as, in some cases, a limited discussion of issues that may arise from concentration levels in the body that may be considered deficit or toxic. Entire textbooks on these primary dietary components are written for the medical and veterinary professions, in addition to the internet providing ready access to both scholarly and popular literature. Some of those references are included above.


The data values presented above only represent the test values for the presence and concentration of the component conducted according to standard chemical testing methods in a controlled laboratory setting. Any point test value is accompanied by a measurement uncertainty range as indicated in the charts. The concentration values are in no measure an indication of how much of the component may be provided to an animal in reconstituted formula or its bioavailability (its degree of digestibility, absorption, or ultimate utilization). Additionally, no testing was performed as to the source of the component in the product (such as inorganic salts) or the grade of any added supplements containing the component.


What the data can do is inform the reader as to (1) concentration levels in a product as most recently tested (2) changes over time and between lots, and (3) comparisons of relative concentration levels between products. It is merely data that may serve as a starting point when deciding on a milk replacer product(s) and a recipe, or information to consider if certain medical symptoms appear that could be a result of absence or excess of a specific component in the formula. The reader is encouraged to consult veterinary or nutritional professionals prior to providing additional supplementation of any component.

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