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Effects of Injectable Vitamin Products on Serum Vitamin and Selenium Concentrations and Growth Performance in Beef Calves

NDSU researchers are studying the effectiveness of vitamin A-D-E or Bo-Se injection on raising serum fat-soluble vitamin and selenium concentrations of newborn calves in the first 48 hours after treatment.

Calf with Ear Tag in Straw BeddingHave you ever had a group of calves that was born very weak and prone to illness? Inadequate vitamin intake in gestating cows may result in calves that are born weak and with poor immunity. The immune system benefits of vitamins A, D and E, as well as the antioxidant properties of selenium, have the potential to improve overall animal health and productivity significantly.

The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of vitamin A-D-E or Bo-Se injection on raising serum fat-soluble vitamin and selenium concentrations of newborn calves in the first 48 hours after treatment.

To conduct this research, we used 40 young beef calves (3 to 20 days of age) born to first-calf heifers at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter, N.D. Calves were blocked by age and sex, then randomly assigned to treatments in a 2×2 factorial design, with factors being 1) administration or not of 4 mL Bo-Se [Intervet; selenium (1 mg/mL) and vitamin E (50 mg/mL)], and 2) administration or not of 5 mL of VITAL EAD [Stuart Products; vitamin E (as d-alpha-tocopherol; 300 I.U.), vitamin A (as retinylpalmitate; 100,000 I.U.) and vitamin D3 (10,000 I.U.)].

Whole blood samples were obtained via jugular venipuncture from all calves just prior to administration of treatments. Calves were placed on a portable digital scale to determine body weight at the time of treatment administration. Forty-eight hours after treatment, a sample of whole blood was collected again.

Cow-calf pairs were maintained in a lot and fed once daily. The diet consisted of 20 percent alfalfa/grass hay, 70 percent corn silage, 6 percent barley and 4 percent liquid supplement. In addition, cows had access to free-choice loose mineral.

Twenty-three days after treatment administration, calves were weighed and cow-calf pairs were moved to pasture. Body weight gain was calculated by subtracting the weight at the start of the trial from the pasture turnout weight. Blood samples were shipped to the Iowa State University Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis of selenium, vitamin A and vitamin E.

Calves treated with BoSe had greater concentrations of selenium 48 hours after treatment, compared with calves not given BoSe (Table 1). In addition, calves treated with VITAL-EAD had greater concentrations of vitamin A and vitamin E on day two, compared with calves not given VITAL-EAD (Table 2). No interactions (P > 0.10) were present among BoSe and VITAL-EAD factors for serum concentrations of selenium, vitamin A or vitamin E.

Table 1. Serum profile 48 hours after BoSe
Selenium, ng/ml 56.3x 72.5y
Vitamin A, μg /ml 0.18 0.19
Vitamin E, μg /ml 8.78 10.75
xy Means differ (P < 0.01)
Table 2. Serum profile 48 hours after Vital EAD
ItemNo Vital EADVital EAD
Selenium, ng/ml 64.2 64.5
Vitamin A, μg /ml 0.16x 14.80y
Vitamin E, μg /ml 4.73x 14.80y
xy Means differ (P < 0.01)

The average daily gain of calves from treatment until pasture turnout was affected by an interaction among BoSe and VITAL-EAD. Calves given either Bo-Se (1.66 lb/d) or VITAL-EAD (1.64 lb/d) had greater average daily gain compared with calves given both products (1.17 lb/d), while calves that did not receive either product (1.42 lb/d) were intermediate.

This research showed that administration of VITAL-EAD increased the serum concentration of vitamin A and vitamin E in young beef calves, whereas Bo-Se increased concentrations of selenium. Future research efforts need to explore the duration of the elevated serum vitamin status as well as potential health benefits this may bring to calves with inadequate vitamin status.

Carl Dahlen, NDSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, and Bryan Neville, Central Grassland Research Extension Center Animal Scientist

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