Vitamins & Trace Minerals – are farmers getting the real returns?

Low levels of investment, limited / or almost nonexistent concept for any regulatory approvals and complicity of traders, importers and manufacturers have all created an ever expanding nutritionals / feed supplement / feed additives segment in Animal Health Industry in India.
So much so that a large number of new product launches by existing as well as new entrants are in the nutritionals / supplement category only. And in the race to outdo each other, several combinations of Vitamins and trace minerals are being marketed without following established norms, rational or any scientific principles.
Vitamins and trace minerals need to be routinely added in the commercial feeds for all animal species, ensuring an ever growing industry worth several hundred crores in India. With the increasing costs of raw materials including vitamins and minerals, dairy farmers and poultry farmers need to ask tougher questions to the companies supplying these and the animal nutritionists alike.
Wasting precious money is no longer trendy
The existing Vitamins & Minerals formulations being marketed in India, specifically for Ruminants have following 3 major limitations across the spectrum:
1. A large number of Vitamins and mineral formulations have grossly and thoroughly negligible amounts of Vitamins and minerals compared to daily recommended requirements. This is true for products from both Multinational Corporations as well as from local, Indian companies. Some formulations have very minute concentrations of Vitamins and minerals, so as to hardly render any commercial benefit whatsoever to the farmer.
2. Increasingly available scientific knowledge unequivocally proves that a large number of Vitamins are extensively destroyed / degraded in the rumen. There was a common belief earlier that rumen microorganism are able to synthesise most of the B Vitamins, so much so their supplementation through the diet was not thought to be that essential. But the new knowledge says that in spite of these vitamins are getting syntheseised in rumen, these may be again destroyed substentially. Sample the following data:
3. Third and the equally important aspect is the questionable bioavailability of a large number of existing formulations of Vitamins and trace mineral supplements that are marketed in India.
As an example, with a reported degradation of around 99% for Niacin in Rumen, addition / usage of non-encapsulated / non Rumen By-Pass Niacin in Ruminants, is sheer waste of money and lost opportunity to improve animal productivity.
Thus, in the present prevailing situation, which is marked by the lack of any quality regulations as well as lack of any proper analytical reports, it is so very essential to ensure that companies marketing such irrational formulations do not have a field day. Since animals are unable to report the feedback of these formulations, only a long term feeding trial can ensure any visual concrete effects/ benefits . Such type of long time feeding trial should be mandatorily undertaken by companies on these feed supplements before they go for the marketing of such formulations.
Lack of official, updated scientific data supports waste- what does waste mean?
Though National Research Council’s last recommendations for Ruminants came in 2001, considerable improvements in genetics and consequently in milk productivity warrant an urgent update since 14 years is a long period.
The recommendations by animal breeding organizations are nothing more than educated guesses, based on their desire for their genetics to always perform at top level. Therefore, more research is needed to fill this gap in our knowledge of vitamins and trace minerals, but funding is usually diverted to more trendy topics or additives.
Way Forward
There is an urgent and important need for the dairy farmers to look away from front of the pack to the side of the pack which carries details on product composition. A closer look on side of the label is warranted, before they loosen their purse strings and this will ensure they get what they pay for.
With the availability of Rumen By-Pass Vitamins now in India, dairy farmers now have an opportunity to spend the right money on right products. Its time now for animal farmers to ask tough questions of Vitamins and Minerals supplements’ marketers.
1. NRC 2001
2. Minerals & Vitamins for Ruminants: Magic Bullets or Just Bullets?; W.P. Weiss, Dept. of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University, US
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy.

Dr. Sandeep Juneja, HyPro Foods