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Forskningsartikel2014Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Status of vitamins E and A and β-carotene and health in organic dairy cows fed a diet without synthetic vitamins

Johansson, Birgitta; Persson Waller, Karin; Jensen, S.K.; Lindqvist, Hanna; Nadeau, Elisabet


Synthetic vitamin supplementation is not consistent with organic production, so it is important to investigate whether dairy cows can maintain their health and production without synthetic vitamins being added to their diet. In basic dairy cow diets, provitamin A (beta-carotene) and vitamin E are mainly found in pasture and in grass and legume silages, but the concentrations are highly variable. This study compared the vitamin status and health of cows without synthetic vitamin supplementation (NSV group) with control cows (CON group) fed synthetic vitamins according to Swedish recommendations (600 IU of vitamin E and 80,000 IU of vitamin A per cow per day) to investigate whether dairy cows can fulfill their requirements of vitamins A and E without supplementation with synthetic vitamins. Vitamin concentrations in blood plasma and milk, health, fertility, milk yield, and milk composition were measured in Swedish Holstein cows (n = 28) during 2 complete lactations. All cows were fed a 100% organic diet containing grass-legume silage, cold-pressed rapeseed cake, peas, cereal grains, and minerals. Blood samples were collected from each cow 3 wk before expected calving, at calving, and 3 wk, 3 to 5 mo, and 7 to 9 mo after calving. Samples of colostrum were taken and milk samples were collected 4 d after calving and at the same time as the 3 blood samplings after calving. The only difference in vitamin status between groups was found in colostrum in yr 1, when CON cows tended to have a higher concentration of alpha-tocopherol, and their beta-Carotene concentration was higher compared with NSV cows. The NSV cows tended to have more cases of mastitis than CON cows in yr 2. Within the NSV group, fewer cows were healthy and more cases of mastitis were observed in yr 2 than in yr 1. The groups did not differ in production parameters. In conclusion, the vitamin status in blood and milk of the studied cows indicated that cows in organic dairy production can fulfill their requirements of vitamins A and E without any supplementation of synthetic vitamins, except at the time around calving, when the requirements are high. However, the impaired health of NSV cows in yr 2 may indicate a long-term negative health effect in cows fed no synthetic vitamins.


alpha-tocopherol; beta-carotene; retinol; organic milk production

Publicerad i

Journal of Dairy Science
2014, Volym: 97, nummer: 3, sidor: 1682-1692