A recently published study (Mary et al, 2021) showed that even pasture fed cows are short of beta carotene at some points in the breeding cycle. Researchers measured vitamin E and beta-carotene status of dairy cows from a number of countries selected to reflect differences in climate, forage type and feeding systems.
Of all sampled cows, 44% were deficient in beta-carotene, meaning that their blood concentration was below 3.5 mg/l, the minimum recommended. Beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant for oocyte cells, while vitamin A which is produced from beta-carotene, influences follicle development. The study showed that the 4 weeks around calving seemed to be a critical period for maintaining beta- carotene blood levels to support the health of the dairy cow.
Poor forages had much lower levels of beta carotene and that was reflected in the cow’s status too. Although the beta-carotene content of forage varies greatly due to numerous factors, green leafy materials such as lucerne contain a lot more beta-carotene than alternatives such as cereals. This study provides the rationale for the inclusion of lucerne in the rations of dairy cows at key times, even for those kept at pasture. For those fed on predominantly cereal based rations or when forage quality is poor, adding lucerne to the ration becomes even more important.
Lucerne is a commonly used ingredient in feeds for a wide variety of livestock as well as horses and small pets such as rabbits. Lucerne has a number of benefits to the dairy cow such as providing a natural source of protein, digestible fibre as well as naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Lucerne also contains more beta-carotene than alternative cereal feeds which makes lucerne a great addition to any dairy cow’s diet.
For more information on Dengie’s range of lucerne based farm feeds, contact James on 07802829525 or via the website.