Effects of prepartum supplementation of β-carotene in Holstein cows

C. M. Prom, M. A. Engstrom, J. K. Drackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whether supplemental dietary β-carotene affects periparturient cows and vitamins A and E in cows when dietary vitamin A is adequate remains uncertain. Our objective was to assess the effect of β-carotene supplementation during the close-up dry period in a herd with adequate status of vitamins A and E but low in β-carotene. The study was conducted on a large commercial dairy farm in Indiana during early summer of 2015. Ninety-four multiparous Holstein cows were assigned to either control (CON; n = 47) or β-carotene (BC; n = 47) treatments. When locked in headgates each morning, each cow received a topdress of β-carotene (Rovimix, 8 g/d; provided 800 mg of β-carotene) or carrier from 21 d before expected calving until calving. Blood samples were collected at 21 ± 1 d (mean ± standard deviation) before expected calving (before treatments began), 7 ± 1 d before calving, immediately following parturition, and 7 ± 1 d postpartum. Blood serum was analyzed for vitamins A and E, β-carotene, cholesterol, and other metabolites and enzymes. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure in SAS (SAS Institute Inc.). Cows had low β-carotene concentrations (0.85 μg/mL) in blood serum before treatments began. Compared with CON cows, BC cows had higher overall mean concentrations of β-carotene (2.87 μg/mL vs. 0.73 μg/mL) and retinol (165 vs. 143 ng/mL). Cows fed BC had lower α-tocopherol in serum than cows fed CON (2.26 vs. 2.46 µg/mL). Cows fed BC had lower peak milk than cows fed CON (50.9 vs. 55.3), but total lactation milk yield did not differ significantly. No effects of BC were observed on days to conception (100 d) or times bred (2.4). Treatments did not affect incidences of ketosis, retained placenta, displaced abomasum, off feed, lameness, footrot, mastitis, or metritis. In conclusion, in pregnant cows already receiving adequate vitamin A but with low serum β-carotene concentration, supplementation of β-carotene increased concentrations of β-carotene and vitamin A in blood serum, but did not affect production, reproduction, or health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4116-4127
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • carotenoid
  • transition cow
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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