Vitamins are vital
There have been some changes in the vitamin content of our rearing products lately. Partly because the law forces us to do this and partly because of the demand. Besides that we often receive questions concerning vitamins. So in this newsletter we will try to explain a few things.
Everyone knows that vitamins and health go together. That is why in times of stress and illness farmers often add vitamins to the animal nutrition.
It is certain that, among other things, breeding and improved feeding management has doubled the production of Dutch dairy cows in the last forty years. Although the fat percentages increased with this yield, the vitamin content almost remained the same. By this dilution the current vitamin content in cow’s milk doesn’t cover the demand of the calves.
Through higher milk production the level of vitamins and minerals have decreased. The result of this is that today’s milk does not cover the demand of the calves. Calves are born with lower supply of vitamins A, D3 and E. The calf is dependent of the supply through animal nutrition.
Added to this that calves are born with very low reserves of vitamin A, D3 and E. Also vitamin C supply decreases quickly in the first few days after birth. This increasing the chances that calves may suffer from a vitamin deficiency, causing all sorts of health and immune related problems.
As a comparison
It’s fair to say that the exact vitamin requirement of calves is quite difficult to quantify; vitamins mostly have a correlation other nutrients. Also, a calf undergoes a transition to a ruminant so the need will constantly change too.
Little research has been done into calves in relation with vitamining.
The main vitamins and their functions:
Vitamin A; Is needed for the visual development, the maintenance of the epithelial tissue and mucous membrane, bone development and the immune system. A deficit is often associated with abnormalities of the eyes, dull hair coats and a malfunctioning immune system.
Vitamin D3; Essential for the calcium and phosphorus metabolism and therefore very important for the bone growth. Thus, vital for growing animals.
Vitamin E; Acts (together with selenium) as an antioxidant and protects cells against the harmful effects of free radicals, essential for the cell membrane integrity. Besides that Vitamin E encourages the production of immunoglobulins and so strengthens the immune system. Research teaches us that an increased vitamin E level has a positive effect on the calf’s immune system. However there’s a limit to this level.
Vitamin C; Is produced in the liver at grown animals, calves don’t have this lack this capability in the first weeks. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and plays a big part in the iron absorption.
Source: Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. Seventh Revised Edition. National Research Council, 2001