Vitamins represent about 1% of feed costs in broiler feeds, yet, take no back seat to ensure optimal growth, ideal health status, feed efficiency and reproductive function. Naturally occurring vitamins in ingredients vary considerably in concentration and bioavailability. Seldom are levels able to meet nutritional requirements.
Vitamins serve an array of functions (Table 1) and under commercial conditions, classical vitamin deficiencies (Table 2) are seldom observed because subtle shortages of vitamins is common. This translates into low target weights, 1-2 point losses in FCR, or egg production that lingers slightly below expectations. These losses are difficult to distinguish from poor management, intestinal disruptions, and stress-related factors. Vitamin shortages during disease challenge can exacerbate losses because the bird is less capable of coping with the challenge.
Over the past 70 years, our Optimum Vitamin Nutrition® (OVN) aims to feed animals with high quality vitamins, produced with the lowest environmental footprint, in the right amounts, appropriate to their life stage and growing conditions to optimize: animal health and welfare, animal performance, and food quality and food waste. OVN levels compensate for the many factors which can influence the bird’s requirements and corresponding feed levels, thus ensuring that vitamin fortification does not limit performance. They are based on extensive university and industry research, published requirements and practical experience.
The OVN Concept can be categorized into four sections. The first, a deficient level which indicates feeding vitamin levels below the NRC recommendations. This puts animals at risk of developing clinical deficiency signs and disorders. The next category can be described as the sub-optimum level which indicates feedings levels above the NRC leading to the prevention of clinical deficiency signs and disorders but still inadequate to achieve optimum health and productivity. The third category is the OVN guidelines, these are vitamin levels that support good health, productivity, food quality and nutritional value. In special applications, feeding beyond the OVN guidelines can help optimize certain attributes such as immunity, bone health, and vitamin enriched food.
When we compare the 2022 DSM OVN guidelines for poultry (Table 3), to the 2016 OVN guidelines, we see about a 5 – 6% increase for most vitamins, primarily to reflect the reduced feed intake to reach target weights. The recommendations for breeding hens generally reflect higher productivity for several variables as reported by breeder companies (such as +5-7% hatchability, +3-4% more chicks/hen housed, 1-3% improved peak production, and +4-7% improvement in FCR). Breeders continue to be the focal point for profitability for commercial operations.
The difference between the 2016 and 2022 guidelines are not surprising as vitamin requirements can be very dynamic. Nutritionists decide on the fortification rates based on a variety of criteria – bird age, production phase, field experience, research trials, and so forth. The rapid change in broiler genetics is the biggest factor that affects long-term fortification levels. Broiler growth rates have climbed 3-4% every year with less feed being consumed/lb live gain (Zuidhof et al., 2014). To this end, the feed conversion ratio (FCR) improved by nearly 2 points/year over the past 10 years (NCC, 2021; Agri Stats, 2022). The days required to attain a 5.1 lb slaughter weight have declined from 52 days 1995 to 40 days today (Agri Stats, 2022), which reduces the time to correct missteps in nutrition, management, or health programs. Faster growing strains generally experience more mortality and meat disorders, bone deformities, and contact dermatitis, as opposed to slow-growth strains. The boost in skeleton and body weight impact vitamin fortification requirements (Jiang et al., 2011; Mejia et al., 2014). Yet, commercial fortification levels did not change appreciably from 1993 to 2012 (Ward, 2012).
In summary, vitamin fortification rates should be adjusted to correspond with progress or changes made in broiler genetics. The costliest vitamin shortages are those that are marginal when insufficiency effects are less apparent. The 2022 DSM OVN Vitamin Guidelines for broilers provide a range to account for various commercial conditions and to offset improvements in feed conversion ratio.
Table 1: Functions of Individual Vitamins
|Vitamin A||Vision, reproduction, membranes, bone development, hatchability, ataxia and weakness, ruffled feathers|
|Vitamin D||Bone development (P, Ca absorption), immune function|
|Vitamin E||Antioxidant, cell membrane integrity, immune function, reduced platelet aggregation (blood clotting)|
|Menadione||Blood clotting, bone mineralization|
|Niacin||Energy production, and carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, nerve function|
|Thiamin||Energy production, and carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism|
|Riboflavin||Energy production, and carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism|
|Pyridoxine||Energy production, and carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism|
|Vitamin B12||Energy metabolism|
|Pantothenic acid||Carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, glucose metabolism|
|Folic acid||Amino acid and energy metabolism, protein synthesis, immunity|
|Biotin||Related to methionine, choline and folacin metabolism, and fat and carbohydrate metabolism|
Table 2: Deficiency Symptoms of Individual Vitamins
|Vitamin||Primary Deficiency Symptoms|
|Vitamin A||Eye lesions, muscle incoordination, lower disease resistance|
|Vitamin D||Rickets, cartilage malformation, lameness, poor growth|
|Vitamin E||Exudative diathesis, encephalomalacia, edema, reduced hatch|
|Menadione||Impaired blood coagulation, hemorrhages on breast, legs & abdominal cavity, anemia|
|Niacin||Metabolic skin & digestive organ disorders, weakness, low growth|
|Thiamin||Lack of appetite, neurological disorders, leg weakness, stargazing|
|Riboflavin||Lowered growth & feed intake; skin, eye & nerve disorders; impaired walking & vigor|
|Pyridoxine||Dermatitis, poor growth, anemia, poor feathering, nerve disorders|
|Vitamin B12||Anemia, lowered feed intake, efficiency & growth, perosis|
|Pantothenic acid||Nerve and skin disorders, edema and hemorrhages, dermatitis|
|Folic acid||Blood disorders, anemic, lethargic, poor feathering, perosis|
|Biotin||Footpad dermatitis, nerve disorders, low performance, leg disorders|
Table 3: 2022 DSM Optimum Vitamin Nutrition® (OVN) guidelines for poultry
The 2022 DSM OVN guidelines for poultry can found here.
17 October 2022
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