With a major fire at the BASF citral plant in Germany causing a global shortage of vitamins A and E, many livestock producers are concerned about availability and the impact on feed prices, however according to Bob Kendal, Alltech UK"s ruminant manager for the north, there are alternative options available.

"BASF is by far the world"s largest producer of citral, a key intermediate in the production of vitamins A and E, and following the fire, the market for these key minerals has been squeezed," says Mr Kendal.

"As a result, we have seen significant price volatility for vitamin A and E feed components, which has left livestock producers vulnerable to a hike in feed prices, with some prepared to reduce the specification of rations to offset the increased cost."

With both vitamins A and E playing an integral role in a host of body processes, including immunity, reproduction and feed conversion, Mr Kendal empahises that optimum mineral nutrition must be maintained to avoid long-term impacts on health and productivity.

However, he says this doesn"t necessarily mean that the inclusion rate of vitamins A and E cannot be reduced.

"When it comes to vitamin E, while there isn"t a direct replacement, there"re ways in which we can formulate diets to maximise the efficiency of the vitamin E that is available, enabling the inclusion rate to be lowered without any negative effects.

"This includes partially replacing vitamin E with an organic form of selenium such as Sel-Plex. As a result of complex interactions between the two elements, Sel-Plex selenium can recycle "used" vitamin E, allowing the overall level within rations to be reduced."

Mr Kendal adds that an additional consideration is to totally replace certain inorganic trace minerals within premixes with Bioplex, a unique organic form that research has shown can improve vitamin stability.

"In trace mineral premixes, oxidation-reduction reactions are the predominant cause of vitamin instability, and the form of trace mineral will influence its reactivity. Copper and zinc are the most reactive and have the greatest potential for vitamin destruction; however, Bioplex trace minerals have far less potential for reactivity. A switch in mineral form could therefore allow for a reduction in vitamin levels," he says.

Mr Kendal however notes that not all organic trace minerals are the same. "Organic trace minerals must have high bond strength if interactions are to be minimised to an extent that would permit lower inclusion rates of vitamins," he says.

"With BASF not yet resuming production, combined with the ongoing uncertainty in Chinese supply, a rethink of vitamin formulation strategies within livestock rations could prove very worthwhile," Mr Kendal concludes.

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