Why are Vitamins essential for Animal Health and Productivity?

According to Bailey “Supplementation is simply an insurance policy to ward off possible deficiencies.” 

Like humans, livestock animals also need a balanced diet containing all the necessary nutrients, fluids, minerals, and vitamins. Without a balanced diet there are innumerable threats to the health of a large group of animals. In particular, ruminant animals, such as cattle, are especially susceptible to the problems that arise from a poor or imbalanced diet. As a result, many cattle farmers rely on the use of cattle supplements to ensure their herds stay healthy and productive. There are 20 recognized inorganic elements which perform essential functions in the body. Although vitamins are needed in a very small percentage of dietary nutrients, they are essential, irreplaceable micronutrients that are required for normal physiological functions including growth, development and reproduction, as well as animal well-being and general health status.In general, all animals display distinct morphological and physiological deficiency signs when individual vitamins are absent from the diet.

Vitamins also boost up immune response towards pathogens through promoting systematic immune processes by regulating T-lymphocytes, antibodies, and cytokines formation. Naturally-occurring antioxidant nutrients like Beta-carotene and lycopene, alpha-tocopherol and ascorbate, play an important role in animal health by inactivating harmful free radicals which are produced through various stressors and normal cellular activity. In vitro and in vivo studies showed that antioxidant vitamins generally enhance different aspects of cellular and noncellular immunity.
Vitamins for Dairy Cattle: Feeding the proper amounts of vitaminsis essential for the health, growth, and optimum milk production of dairy cattle. Feeding less than the optimum amount of any vitamin can result in an increased incidence of disease and reproductive problems, lower milk production, and decreased growth rate in cattle.

  • Vitamin A is necessary for bone development, sight, and maintenance of healthy epithelialtissues. Its deficiency can cause increased susceptibility to disease, night blindness, and reproductive failure.
  • Supplementing vitamin D (sunshine vitamin) is involved in the uptake of Calcium and Phosphorus so that a vitamin D deficiency resembles a Ca and P deficiency.
  • Vitamin E is important in the reproduction processes of dairy cattle and its deficiency can cause embryonic death, testicular atrophy, and ovarian failure. It may enhance the mammary response to a bacterial challenge, activity of neutrophils and immunoglobulin production.

Vitamins for Poultry: It is emphasized to feed a balanced diet with essential vitamins to poultry birds as they are imperative for good health and help in preventing deficiency diseases. The deficiency can lead to several health problems, which can severely affect the poultry production, causing economic losses to the farmers. Therefore, farmers should provide properly formulated balanced feed with essential vitamins so that chicks do not suffer from nutrient deficiency diseases which helps to run the poultry farm in profit. In poultry good growth, prevention of leg weakness, all require precise vitamin formulations.

  • Vitamin A is very important and is needed for growth, health of eyes and moist surfaces of the body. Its deficiency causes poor growth, weakness and decreased egg production.
  • Deficiency of vitamin D which is essential for the utilization of calcium and phosphorus in bone development and egg shell formation, can lead to retarded growth, thin shelled eggs, leg weakness, curved legs and rickets.
  • Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and is required to maintain brain structure. Its deficiency causes enlarged hocks, muscular weakness and crazy chick disease.
  • Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting, its absence can result in prolonged blood clotting and intramuscular bleeding.
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) is needed to maintain appetite and preserve the health of nerves. Its deficiency is responsible for poor body growth, loss of appetite and in certain cases, it can lead to death.
  • Deficiency of vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) leads to reduced growth, poor egg production and curled toe paralysis.
  • The shortage of water-soluble vitamin B12 causes anemia, poor growth and embryonic mortality.
  • Folic acid deficiency may result in reduced growth, poor feather development, decreased egg production, perosis and paralysis.
  • Pantothenic acid is necessary to keep skin healthy, its shortage in diet can cause lesions in mouth and feet, dermatitis besides fatty liver and kidneys.
  • Pyridoxine deficiency can lead to poor growth and convulsions.
  • Choline is needed to maintain good growth and it can cause reduced growth, decreased egg production and fatty liver.

Vitamins for Aqua: As majority of vitamins are not synthesized by the fish body or at a rate sufficient to meet the aquatic animal needs, hence they rely on external sources to make up for the deficit.

  • Vitamin A also called Retinol is necessary for normal vision and helps in formation of visual pigments. It maintains epithelial tissues of the reproductive tract, skin, bone and gastro-intestinal tract, and develops bone tissue. Its deficiency results in reduced growth, thickening of corneal epithelium, degeneration of the retina and depigmentation.
  • Vitamin D maintains blood calcium level metabolism, converts organic to inorganic phosphorus in bone, helps in growth of bone tissue and as well as oxidation of citrate in bone. Deficiency symptoms include reduced growth and feed efficiency, anorexia and reduced survival rate.
  • The most important is Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid, because it acts as a powerful antioxidant along with Vitamin E and immunomodulator for fishes/ shrimps for their proper health and also neutralizes free radicals throughout the body. It also helps in reproduction systems of fishes and shrimps, proper egg and sperm formation, improve hatchability, healthy larvae etc. Deficiency results in poor wound repair, increased mortality rate, reduced egg hatchability and black death syndrome. The water-soluble ascorbic acid is the most unstable so it should be added in the fish diet.
  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E) is a lipid-soluble antioxidants, helps in cellular respiration, biosynthesis of DNA and coenzyme Q. Deficiency can lead to exopthalmia, anaemia, clubbed gills, increased mortality, reduced egg hatching rate/spawning efficiency.
  • Phylloquinone is necessary to maintain normal blood coagulation and its deficiency in diet causes increased blood clotting time, anaemia and skin haemorrhages.

Vitamin deficiency is known to negatively affect wound healing and increase susceptibility to infection and stress. Therefore, vitamin requirement levels that fluctuate with an animal’s condition have important implications in designing diets that optimize fish health. These vitamins must be supplied in trace amounts from exogenous sources (usually the diet) for healthy shrimp/fish body in order to enhance fish production in the farming system.

Advice to Farmers: The majority of vitamins are not synthesized by the animal body or at a rate sufficient to meet the animal needs. Often, forages are not well balanced for all the vitamins, hence the need to supplement the diets with a premix. The use of various premixes that contain vitamins are necessary for ruminants, as animals become more productive and need to perform at their best. Farmers should always seek nutritional advice to make sure the premixes fit their specific farming condition and meet the demands for all production stages of the animals. It is always recommended to farmers while buying compound feed for their dairy cattle, poultry and aqua, to ensure that it must contain a good quality of premix.

Dr. Neelam ChaudharyCategory Manager, Agri Commodities, Krimanshi Technologies Pvt. Ltd.