January 2018

Vitamin A and E Shortage and the Potential Impact on Cow-Calf Herds

By Drs. Gregg A. Hanzlicek and Steve Ensley

There is a worldwide Vitamin A and E shortage presently occurring, and the situation is expected to continue for some time. As a consequence, cattle mineral costs are expected to increase significantly.

Vitamin E is very important to the bovine immune system. Research suggests that deficiencies in dietary Vitamin E can result in increased disease incidence including mastitis, metritis with or without retained placentas, and increased days from calving to conception.1

Over the last five years, the KSVDL has diagnosed late term weak calves and stillborn issues related to dietary Vitamin A deficiency in 5 - 20 different cow-calf herds, depending on the year.

To better assure cow and calf health, it is important that producers not reduce the dietary supplementation of these two important elements in an attempt to reduce feed costs during the shortage period.

If you suspect a deficiency of either of these two vitamins in herds experiencing health issues or stillborn and weak calves, excellent diagnostic tests are available.

The preferred post-mortem tissue is liver, and the preferred ante-mortem sample is serum. Vitamin E can be analyzed on whole blood. One ml of serum for vitamin A & E or 1 ml of whole blood for vitamin E is sufficient.

For more information contact KSVDL Client Care at 866-512-5650 or

1 Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle. Eight Revised Edition. National Academies Press. Washington, DC. 2016; page 260.

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