Skyrocketing costs of Vitamin A and E—up six times for A and three times 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 shortage comes as a result of a major fire at a BASF manufacturing facility in Germany in late October and retooling of production facilities in China, a major U.S. supplier of livestock vitamins. A return to normal production levels isn’t expected until midsummer.
“Prefresh 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) per day for vitamin E,” Weiss says. The recommendation for Vitamin A is 50 IU per pound of body weight, so for Jerseys that translates into 50,000 IU per day and for Holsteins, 70,000 IU per day. A prefresh period of two to three weeks should be adequate, Weiss says.
He notes 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 if you do not have a separate prefresh 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, visit this link:
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