Cattle Chat: Preventing Vitamin A Deficiency

By Lisa Moser, K-State Research and Extension news service


Manhattan, KS— A well-balanced diet is a key to good health, and many know the importance of a multivitamin to keep deficiencies at bay.


For cattle, vitamin A is one nutrient that producers need to manage to keep the cattle healthy, said the experts at Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute on a recent Cattle Chat podcast.


“Vitamin A is important for good overall tissue health and really helps support vision,” said veterinarian Bob Larson. “Cattle with severe deficiencies can experience night blindness and their calves can be born weak, but those would be extreme cases.”


Larson said most of the signs of vitamin A deficiency are subtle and hard to detect.


“The primary source of vitamin A is through the beta carotene found in green grass,” said beef cattle nutritionist Phillip Lancaster. “The animal’s body can convert that to vitamin A and since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin it can be stored in the animal’s body for 3-4 months after it comes off the green pastures.”


The challenge this year is that for many regions of the country, the pastures experienced drought and cattle were not able to graze it as long as normal, say the experts.


“And because of the drought. the hay that we made this summer may not have had the same levels of vitamin A as in past years,” added veterinarian Brad White.


There are two options for managing this deficiency, according to Larson.


“A lot of mineral supplements will include vitamin A. It is important to feed fresh mineral supplements that haven’t been stored for more than a year to make sure the product hasn’t been degraded,” he said.


“The second option is to give the cattle a vitamin A injection that will be stored in the liver for a number of weeks.”


White shared the importance of consulting with a nutritionist and veterinarian to come up with a plan to manage vitamin A.


“Because of the drought conditions, many of us are concerned about the earlier than normal depletion of vitamin A in the liver and we need to manage for that situation,” he said.


To hear the full discussion, listen to the Cattle Chat podcast online or through your preferred streaming platform.

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