FAQs: Vitamin E Requirements in Cow and Finishing Beef Rations

Date of publication : 12/17/2008
Source : Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is required for animal growth, to maintain immune function, animal health, and prevent muscular dystrophy in young calves.

Do feeds have adequate amounts of vitamin E?

Current research indicates that stored feeds do not contain adequate amounts of vitamin E to meet the animals' requirements. Supplemental vitamin E is required in all rations that contain dry hay, silage, greenfeed, and swath grazing. Vitamin levels in any stored feed decreases with time. The fermentation process involved with making silage destroys most of the vitamins. Fresh growing forages have adequate amounts of vitamin E.

What does vitamin E do in the animal?

Vitamin E is involved with the control of nerves, muscles and senses. Contraction of muscles allowing movement, heartbeat, rumen and lung function, are all influenced by vitamin E. Excretion of manure, growth, feed conversion efficiency, and reproduction are also affected. It has been noted that the incidence of mastitis and retained placentas increase when vitamin E is deficient in pre-calving rations. Reproductive performance of cows and bulls can also be reduced if vitamin E is deficient.

Does vitamin E influence meat quality?

Vitamin E helps to maintain the bright pink or red color and taste of meat. This improves customer acceptance of meat on the shelf. When meat starts to oxidize, discoloration and off - flavors, or off - odors develop in the meat. Animals fed high levels of vitamin E prior to slaughter improves the shelf life of meat up to two days.

How much Vitamin E is needed in rations?

Pregnant cows

200 to 300 IU / day

Lactating cows

300 to 500 IU / day

Young calves

.80 to 150 IU / day

Growing calves

100 to 200 IU / day

Finishing steers

400 to 1250 IU / day *

* The recommended schedule is:

Days on the program:

Inclusion rate IU/ day









Are there adequate amounts of vitamin E in supplements, minerals, or block products to meet the animal needs?

Vitamin E in levels in feed products is variable. "Adequacy" is dependant upon the inclusion levels in the supplement and average consumption. Monitor the amount of mineral, supplement, or block product consumed by the animal to determine if intake is adequate. Feeding vitamins in a ration or grain mix helps obtain proper supplementation levels.

Is there a price premium for slaughter animals that have been fed the higher amounts of vitamin E?

Niche marketing of beef may provide a price incentive. The major slaughter plants do not provide a premium.

Prepared by Barry Yaremcio, Ag - Info Centre, Government of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

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