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- Vitamin needs of beef cattle can be confined largely to A, D and E. Depending on the type of diet the cattle are on, bacteria in the rumen of cattle have the ability to synthesize enough vitamin K and the B vitamins to meet the animal's needs.
- Vitamins are divided into two classes based on solubility. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. The water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins.
- Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the liver and adipose tissue, whereas the water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body.
- Vitamin A needs special attention in beef rations. Green and yellow plants contain carotene, which animals convert to vitamin A.
- High-quality forages contain large amounts of vitamin A, however low-quality forages or forages that have been stored for several months have low levels of vitamin A and diets should be supplemented. Recommended daily intake is 2200, 2800 and 3900 IU/Kg of DM intake for growing/finishing, pregnant and milking cattle respectively.
- Vitamin A is important for good eye sight, especially at low light levels, bone development, protein formation, reproduction and immunity. Night blindness and low immune function are signs of a vitamin A deficiency. Reproductive disorders like abortions, retained placentas, and birth of weak, blind or dead calves may be caused by a vitamin A deficiency.
- Many compounds possess vitamin D activity, but only vitamin D2 (plant derived) and D3 (animal derived) are important dietary sources. Sun-cured forages tend to be good sources of vitamin D although there are large variations in content that deteriorates over time in storage. Sunlight or ultraviolet light is needed for the animal to convert both vitamin D2 and D3 to their active form. Vitamin D is required for calcium and phosphorus absorption and also influences the mobilization of calcium from bone. Deficiencies cause loss of appetite, digestive disturbance, rickets, swollen or stiff joints, irritability, tetany and or convulsions. It is required at 275 IU/Kg of DM intake.
- The major function of vitamin E is to serve as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger. It is a multi-component defense system in conjunction with selenium. Recommended levels 15 IU/Kg of DM intake or 400 to 500 IU/Kg DM at times of stress.
- A working relationship exists between vitamin E and selenium. Vitamin E is an antioxidant found in cell walls, while selenium is a part of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which is an antioxidant inside cells. Thus, each one can partially offset a deficiency of the other but they cannot fully take the place of each other.
- Vitamin K is involved in normal blood coagulation and is normally synthesized in large amounts by rumen microorganisms, therefore dietary supplementation is not recommended.
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