Skyrocketing costs of Vitamin A and E, up 6x for A and to 3X for E, and in some areas even multiples of that, mean dairy farmers will likely have to prioritize which cows receive full supplementation, says Bill Weiss, an Extension dairy specialist with Ohio State University.
The price increases and shortages come as a result of a major fire at a BASF manufacturing facility in Germany in late October and re-tooling of production facilities in China, which is a major U.S. supplier of livestock vitamins. A return to normal production levels isn’t expected until mid-summer.
“Pre-fresh cows should be the highest priority and be maintained at National Research Council (NRC) levels for vitamin A and probably 2,000 international units (IU)/day for vitamin E,” Weiss says. The recommendation for Vitamin A is 50 IU/lb of body weight, so for Jerseys that translates into 50,000 IU/day and for Holsteins, 70,000 IU/day. A pre-fresh period of two to three weeks should be adequate, says Weiss.
He notes that several studies have shown Vitamins A and E reduce mastitis, abortion, retained placentas and metritis. “Substantial amounts of those vitamins are put into colostrum and substantial amounts of those vitamins are metabolized during the process of [birth],” he says.
Weiss notes that if you do not have a separate pre-fresh group for dry cows, the priority is to supplement at these levels for all dry cows.
“I would try to provide some supplemental Vitamins A and E to all cows, but lactating cows would be the lowest priority,” he says. “These cows consume a lot of feed and the feed is usually better than that fed to dry cows…. If vitamin A becomes scarce, I think you can reduce vitamin A supplementation to about 50% for several months. Likewise, vitamin E supplementation to lactating cows could probably be cut to 50% of NRC in the short term (a few months).”
Vitamin A and E supplementation can also be reduced to about 50% for bred heifers until about 60 days before calving he says.
For more on Weiss’ recommendations, click here.
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