Vitamin E Requirements for Finishing Cattle and Beef Cows

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is required for animal growth, helps to maintain immune function and animal health, and aids in the prevention of muscular dystrophy in young calves. "Current research indicates that stored feeds do not contain adequate amounts of Vitamin E to meet the animal requirements," says Barry Yaremcio, beef forage specialist with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Stettler. "The research showed that supplemental vitamin E was required in all rations that contained dry hay, silage, greenfeed and swath grazing situations. Vitamin levels in any stored feed decreases with time, and some storage methods are more destructive to vitamin content in feed than others. Fresh, growing forages have adequate amounts of vitamin E."

Vitamin E is involved with the control of nerves, muscles, and senses. Contraction of muscles allowing movement, heartbeat, rumen and lung function, are all influenced by vitamin E. Excretion of manure, feed conversion efficiency, growth and reproduction are also affected. It has been noted that the incidence of mastitis and retained placentas increase when vitamin E is deficient in pre-calving rations. Reproductive performance of cows and bulls can also be reduced if vitamin E is deficient.

Table 1. Vitamin E needed in rations (IU/day)

Class of Cattle Inclusion Rate (IU/day)
Pregnant cows 200 - 300
Lactating cows 300 - 500
Young calves 80 - 150
Growing calves 100 - 200
Finishing steers and heifers* 400 - 1,250

Vitamin E helps to maintain the bright pink or red color and the taste of meat. This improves customer acceptance of meat on the shelf. When meat starts to oxidize, discoloration and off-flavors or off-odors develop in the meat. When animals are fed high levels of vitamin E prior to slaughter, it improves the shelf life of the meat up to two days. "Levels of vitamin E vary in feed products depending on manufacturer," adds Yaremcio. "Providing adequate amounts of vitamin E is dependent upon the amount in the supplement and how much of that supplement is included in the ration or consumed in a free choice feeding program. Producers should monitor the intake in free choice programs to ensure consumption is adequate to meet requirements. Feeding vitamins in a total mixed ration, adding the vitamins prior to feeding silage, or including vitamins in a grain mix that is fed daily, improves intake and even distribution among the animals, and increases the chances of all animals receiving the recommended amounts."

Original Article: Barry Yaremcio. Vitamin E Requirements for Finishing Cattle and Beef Cows. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development: April 5, 2004.