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Vitamin D status of dairy cattle: Outcomes of current practices in the dairy industry

Corwin D. Nelson, John D. Lippolis, Timothy A. Reinhardt, Randy E. Sacco, Jessi L. Powell, Mary E. Drewnoski, Matthew O’Neil, Donald C. Beitz, William P. Weiss
Journal of dairy science 2016 v.99 no.12 pp. 10150-10160
blood serum, calves, cholecalciferol, cows, dairy cattle, dairy industry, early lactation, heifers, herds, late lactation, metabolites, milk, milk replacer, neonates, nutritionists, pasteurization, statistical analysis, summer, vitamin status, vitamin supplements, wastes, yearlings, United States
The need for vitamin D supplementation of dairy cattle has been known for the better part of the last century and is well appreciated by dairy producers and nutritionists. Whether current recommendations and practices for supplemental vitamin D are meeting the needs of dairy cattle, however, is not well known. The vitamin D status of animals is reliably indicated by the concentration of the 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] metabolite in serum or plasma, with a concentration of 30ng/mL proposed as a lower threshold for sufficiency. The objective of this study was to determine the typical serum 25(OH)D concentrations of dairy cattle across various dairy operations. The serum 25(OH)D concentration of 702 samples collected from cows across various stages of lactation, housing systems, and locations in the United States was 68±22ng/mL (mean ± standard deviation), with the majority of samples between 40 and 100ng/mL. Most of the 12 herds surveyed supplemented cows with 30,000 to 50,000 IU of vitamin D3/d, and average serum 25(OH)D of cows at 100 to 300 DIM in each of those herds was near or above 70ng/mL regardless of season or housing. In contrast, average serum 25(OH)D of a herd supplementing with 20,000 IU/d was 42±15ng/mL, with 22% below 30ng/mL. Cows in early lactation (0 to 30d in milk) also had lower serum 25(OH)D than did mid- to late-lactation cows (57±17 vs. 71±20ng/mL, respectively). Serum 25(OH)D of yearling heifers receiving 11,000 to 12,000 IU of vitamin D3/d was near that of cows at 76±15ng/mL. Serum 25(OH)D concentrations of calves, on the other hand, was 15±11ng/mL at birth and remained near or below 15ng/mL through 1mo of age if they were fed pasteurized waste milk with little to no summer sun exposure. In contrast, serum 25(OH)D of calves fed milk replacer containing 6,600 and 11,000 IU of vitamin D2/kg of dry matter were 59±8 and 98±33ng/mL, respectively, at 1mo of age. Experimental data from calves similarly indicated that serum 25(OH)D achieved at approximately 1mo of age would increase 6 to 7ng/mL for every 1,000 IU of vitamin D3/kg of dry matter of milk replacer. In conclusion, vitamin D status of dairy cattle supplemented with vitamin D3 according to typical practices, about 1.5 to 2.5 times the National Research Council recommendation, is sufficient as defined by serum 25(OH)D concentrations. Newborn calves and calves fed milk without supplemental vitamin D3, however, are prone to deficiency.