Vitamin E Supplements Reduced Retained Foetal Membranes in Cows

Retained foetal membranes (RFM) in dairy cattle are never a good thing. Recent research from the Universities of São Paulo and Florida showed that vitamin E supplements reduced the incidence of RFM.
calendar icon 14 May 2015
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The occurrence of RFM is associated with subsequent uterine infections and productive and reproductive losses. Researchers recently looked into the effect of supplemental vitamin E on reducing RFM incidence. 

Vitamin E status and supplementation prepartum have been linked with risk of RFM. The objectives were to evaluate the effects of injectable vitamin E during the last 3 weeks prepartum on the incidence of retained fetal membranes (RFM) and reproductive performance.

In the study, 890 cows were fed diets that contained less vitamin E than recommended by the National Research Council. The cows included 390 Holsteins and 500 crossbred cows from 3 dairy farms in Brazil.

In all 3 farms, from October to March, prepartum cows grazed tropical grasses and received 2 kg/d of a mixture of finely ground corn, soybean meal, and minerals and vitamins. From April to September prepartum cows received a total mixed ration composed of corn silage, finely ground corn, soybean meal, and minerals and vitamins.

During the prepartum period, cows were fed 280 (farm 1), 390 (farm 2), and 480 IU (farm 3) of supplemental vitamin E per day, and throughout postpartum, cows were fed 370 (farm 1), 500 (farm 2), and 600 (farm 3) IU of supplemental vitamin E.

The cows also either received or did not receive weekly doses of 1,000 IU of vitamin E starting three weeks prior to calving.

The blood testing results showed that in total, 53.2 per cent of the cows had an inadequate concentration of blood serum α-tocopherol (an easily-absorbed form of vitamin E) based on the 3.0μg/mL cut-off for adequacy. The risk of RFM decreased as serum α-tocopherol increased.

Milk production did not differ between controls and cows fed vitamin E. Treatment with injectable α-tocopherol decreased RFM, decreased incidence of stillbirth, and tended to decrease death by 200 days postpartum.

VitE cows tended to have improved pregnancy per insemination because of decreased pregnancy loss from 31 to 62 days of gestation. Despite a similar insemination rate, vitamin E fed cows had 22 per cent greater pregnancy rate than control cows.

Overall, the results indicate that supplementation with injectable vitamin E decreased the incidence of RFM. In addition, cows that received the weekly Vitamin E treatment also had improved pregnancy per artificial insemination and pregnancy rate in the following lactation.

The results were reported in the April 2015 Journal of Dairy Science.

Further Reading

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