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Vitamin E Supplements and Mastitis Resistance

Dairy Pipeline: December 1997

by G. M. Jones
Extension Dairy Scientist, Milk Quality and Milking Management
Virginia Tech

Vitamin E supplementation is important for mastitis resistance. A study by mastitis researchers at Ohio State University's ARDC in Wooster compared the National Research Council's vitamin E recommendations to higher levels of supplementation and concluded that "supplementation of vitamin E at more than 1,000 IU per day to diets based on stored forages (hay and silage) was necessary during the dry period to maintain adequate plasma concentration of alpha-tocopherol." Low plasma concentrations of a-tocopherol at calving were a significant risk factor for development of new mastitis infections in the udder and new cases of clinical mastitis during the first week of lactation. The killing ability of neutrophils (or somatic cells) was found to be maximized when a-tocopherol levels in blood were elevated by supplementation. During the period beginning 60 days before expected calving until 30 days after calving, they fed diets with three different levels of vitamin E supplementation: (1) NRC recommendation of 100 IU vitamin E per day; (2) 1,000 IU/d before calving and 500 IU/d after calving (this level of supplemental has been shown to reduce new cases of clinical mastitis); and (3) 1,000 IU/d from 60 d until 14 d prepartum, 4000 IU from 14 d until calving, and 2000 IU/d for the first 30 d after calving. They state that vitamin E appears to be especially important beginning at 7-10 d before parturition through 3-5 d postpartum because of the reduction in new cases of clinical mastitis. In addition, higher vitamin E resulted in fewer quarter infections, especially staphylococcal. Vitamin E supplements were added into the dry and lactating cow concentrates.

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