When can a lower beta-carotene content be expected in the basic feed?

  • Dirty and poorly fermented silage
  • Abundant or low herb grassland forage
  • Non-gentle harvest
  • Long periods in the field
  • Spoiled or reheated feed
  • Feed stored for a long time

This can lead to problems because of a beta-carotene deficiency, especially in sensitive phases of lactation. A deficiency causes smaller and less fertile follicles (Fig.1).

Beta-carotene also protects the corpus luteum. It promotes the synthesis of the pregnancy hormone progesterone and thus enables the fertilised egg cell to successfully implant into the uterine lining. As a rule, only fresh basic feed has a high carotene content; this decreases rapidly during preservation and storage (Table 1).

However, the duration of storage alone is not responsible for the beta-carotene content in the feed. For example, a lower carotene content must be expected in the basic feed if it is not introduced under optimum conditions.

JOSERA graphic shows beta-carotene and estradiol follicle

Figure 1: Concentration of beta-carotene, vitamin A and estadiol 17 beta in different folicules (modified according to Brown et. al, 2003)

Table 1: Beta-carotene content of selected feed

Beta-carotene contentMg/kg D
Fresh alfalfa100 – 400
Meadow grass fresh200 – 350
Green meal fresh120 – 250
Green meal, 6 Mon.40 – 120
Alfalfa hay40 – 80
Grass silage30 – 50
Meadow hay10 – 30
Maize silage10 – 40
Grain0 – 4
Brewer’s grains0
Oil meal0

In addition to fertility, beta-carotene also influences udder health and is a precursor of vitamin A. A deficiency in this leads to a shaggy coat and a higher susceptibility of the mucous membranes to infections.

Calf health and beta-carotene

In addition, the content of immunoglobulins, beta-carotene is an important quality criterion for colostrum. Calves of cows with beta-carotene deficiency are often weak and plagued by prolonged diarrhoea and respiratory diseases. A colostrum with a lot of beta-carotene can be recognised by its yellow colour. Remember to use beta-carotene in good time because only then can the desired effect be achieved. A follicle needs 60 days for its development. This is why beta-carotene must be fed during the dry period if the animals are to quickly become pregnant again and the calves are to receive high-quality colostrum.

In animals fed silage all year round, the addition of beta-carotene from birth preparation to new pregnancy is recommended not only in the winter months but also generally. JOSERA offers different products for better fertility with Beta-carotene:

Betavit is a vitamin concentrate with a high beta-carotene concentration, metabolically supportive B vitamins, and high vitamin E and C contents.
The advantages of Betavit are a clearer heat, shorter calving intervals, and better colostrum quality. This offers the farmer a higher fertility, less udder and uterine inflammations, resistant animals that are ready to perform, and fewer young animal losses.

As an alternative to Betavit, Betamin is a mineral feed for cattle. This features a high beta-carotene content, which is particularly recommended in the period from birth to the successful pregnancy examination.

JOSERA bag of Betavit
JOSERA bag of Betamin

Beta-carotene- not only important for fertility!

A farmer’s herd had a stable average of 10,200 kg at the beginning of 2013 and 9,900 kg in mid-2013. At the same time, the cell content in milk varies between 250,000 and 300,000 somatic cells. The fertility situation is not satisfactory. The intermediate calving time is 420 days and more.
The ration consists of maize silage, grass silage, straw, the farm’s own compensating mixture, and sugar components because the grass silage is quite modest.

Fertility analysis

A suboptimal supply or a deficiency of carotenes and vitamin A can occur in cattle in late winter and spring when the animal is given proprietary feed without the addition of these active ingredients. This is because the beta-carotene content of the feed is relatively low after several months of storage and the vitamin A reserves created during carotene-rich feeding in summer are largely exhausted after 3–4 months or are not created at all during year-round canned feeding. The content of beta-carotene in the corpus luteum depends on the amount of the uptake. In summer, the blood plasma content is therefore in the range of 2.5–5 ml/l; in winter, it is even significantly lower.

JOSERA current case in practice
JOSERA graphic shows the practice case of a carotine use

The beta-carotene content in the blood gives information about the content in the feed. It is therefore also possible to draw conclusions about feeding errors. In order to quickly, easily, and reliably determine the beta-carotene content of blood serum, there is a rapid test, which has been available for several years, that harmonises well with complex laboratory tests. The i-check™ from BioAnalyt shows after 5 minutes how the animals are supplied with beta-carotene. The beta-carotene supply is divided into three areas: Deficit: < 1.5 mg/l Marginal: 1.5–3.5 mg/l Optimal: > 3.5 mg/l

Feed analysis

The basic ration is quite low in energy and sugar because of the grass silage. In the protein-rich compensatory feed, raw protein is supplemented with soya and rapeseed extraction meal as well as energy in the form of wheat and maize. In the practical example, the administration of feed sugar and candy syrup complements the ration quite well.
By adding Dairy Pilot, the pH value in the rumen can be kept at an optimum level.

The mineral supplementation is carried out with Betamin, a mineral feed with beta-carotene, which ensures the quantity and trace element supply, buffers with sodium bicarbonate, and supplements sufficient vitamins and beta-carotene.

Any excess of rapid energy in the rumen can still be caught with RumiN so that a good amount of bacterial protein is formed in the rumen.
The urea content in the milk should be checked and the RNB value adjusted to >0/kg DM.

Further effects

By correcting the feed and supplementing it with beta-carotene, it was possible to reduce the somatic cell content in the milk.

Some literature references confirm this effect (Batra et al.1991, Chew and Johnson 1985).

Conclusion: An improvement in feed is not only seen in the production of more milk with better ingredients. Secondary effects such as udder health and fertility also increase the longevity of the herd and minimise costs.

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JOSERA table shows cell numbers of caroting

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