On the Blog

Surviving the vitamin crisis

Most of you have probably walked into your local feed store or glanced at your current price list and gotten a shock at how much prices have shot up in the last few months. As Jon mentioned in his blog last week, a global vitamin shortage (particularly vitamin A) has set the feed industry on edge. This shortage is expected to continue well into 2018.

In beef cattle nutrition, we are most commonly concerned with supplementation of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E. We are especially concerned during this time of year when access to green forages (which contain vitamin precursors) and the hours of access to sunlight are limited. It is now that supplementation of vitamins A, D & E will provide the most benefit to your herd. (See Table 1 for major functions and deficiencies in cattle).

Jon already spoke about the knee jerk reaction by many feed manufacturers to reduce vitamin levels in feeds and supplements to counter increasing prices. Let me address the other instinct…stockpiling feeds, supplements or vitamin premixes to ride out this current shortage. Let me explain why that might not be a good idea.

Vitamins are very reactive biochemicals and quite sensitive to their environment. Fat soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin A, can be quite unstable and can quickly lose efficacy. Factors that influence stability include: temperature, humidity, reduction/oxidation (redox) reactions and light. Since vitamin A is in shortest supply right now, let me focus solely on vitamin A for the remainder of this blog.

Because organic chemistry was one of my least favorite classes of all time, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the chemistry of vitamin A. Suffice to say that vitamin A is highly susceptible to oxidation. For this reason, vitamin A oil is typically emulsified and processed into a coated beadlet containing antioxidants that is either cross-linked or non-cross linked. Cross-linked beadlets are insoluble in water, further protecting the vitamin A. The type of vitamin A utilized by Ridley is exclusively cross-linked beadlets.

How long commercial processed vitamin A retains efficacy is highly dependent on its physical and chemical environment. Tables 2 and 3 briefly give an overview of how various conditions affect the vitamin. So what does this mean? If you purchase a vitamin premix, it will remain fairly stable over time. However, even this loses efficacy at roughly 1-2% per month. So if kept for 6 months to a year, the vitamin bioactivity should be at roughly 80-90%, which is deemed acceptable. (One caveat to consider is when purchasing though is how long the vitamin premix sat in storage prior to your purchase. Contact the manufacturer to get a manufacture date to be sure.) However, if one purchases a commercial mineral supplement containing vitamin A along with relatively high levels of trace minerals, storage conditions become more important and efficacy can decline much more quickly. How much more quickly gets complicated in a hurry, as humidity, length of storage, temperature and chemical reduction/oxidation reactions are major factors. Just know that in some situations, over half of your vitamin A activity can be gone after only 6 months of storage.

With this in mind, stockpiling most other commercial feeds or mineral/vitamin supplements to try to avoid rising vitamin prices and/or shortages doesn’t make a lot of sense. But here’s the good news, the unique manufacturing process used to make CRYSTALYX® low moisture blocks excludes moisture, oxygen and light except at the very surface. This means that the chemical environment is one that maintains vitamin A integrity better than other feed forms. Be assured that the vitamin A activity you pay for today will still be there 6 months or even a year from now. So, if you are in a position to purchase enough CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements for the next 3, 6 or even 12 months, you don’t have to worry about loss of vitamin activity.

CRYSTALYX® offers a large variety of supplement products to help you find the right supplement for YOUR operation and cattle conditions. Call us at 800-727-2502 to learn more about the many options available.