New Poultry Vitamin Recommendations for More Sustainable Farming

In Brief

  • Supporting and enhancing flock health will boost production performance and quality. Dietary vitamin supplementation is one way of achieving this.
  • The vitamin requirements of birds vary depending on a number of factors including genotype, levels of yield and the production system used.
  • Some nutritional recommendations for vitamins are based on trials conducted over 20 years ago. The poultry industry of today is very different, using new management practices, new genotypes and facing new health challenges. It is therefore logical that nutritional programmes be updated.
  • OVN Optimum Vitamin Nutrition® is a concept which regularly reviews and updates vitamin recommendations in feed.
  • As our understanding of the interaction between vitamins continues to grow, so the recommendations for vitamin inclusion levels will need to be updated.

Addressing the poultry industry challenges of today and tomorrow

Understanding the overlap in poultry nutrition and poultry health is essential for meeting current and future industry challenges like hatchability, first week mortality, disease management without antibiotics, reducing feed costs, and eliminating food waste. There is a growing focus on sustainable farming where our industry has a critical role in shaping a better world, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations.

Supporting poultry with appropriate vitamins can help make production more sustainable (SDG 12, 13), help get the world closer to zero hunger (SDG 2) and help achieve good health and well-being (SDG 3). Supplementing diets with the right levels of quality and sustainable vitamins will help poultry producers improve bird health, wellbeing, and performance, while also protecting the environment, succeeding in a dynamic and ever-changing global market, and enhancing both profits and environmental sustainability.

Vitamins are essential for the normal functioning of metabolic and physiological processes

Vitamins play a decisive role in both human and poultry nutrition. As organic catalysts present in small quantities in the majority of foods, they are essential for the normal functioning of metabolic and physiological processes. Vitamin requirements in animals are dynamic: they vary according to new genotypes, levels of yield and production systems. Inclusion of the appropriate levels of vitamins in an animal’s diet not only allows complete realization of its performance potential, but at the same time improves various aspects related to health and wellbeing, productivity and the ultimate quality of the food produced, be it meat or eggs. Healthier birds will produce more and healthier food.

OVN Optimum Vitamin Nutrition® is a dynamic concept which regularly reviews and updates vitamin supplementation in feed. OVN™ is about feeding animals 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, food quality and food waste.

Reviewing and updating vitamin recommendations in animal nutrition

Vitamin recommendations from a number of international scientific associations (such as the National Research Council (NRC), and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC)) were developed with the object of preventing nutritional deficiencies. Some of the studies their recommendations are based on are more than 20-30 years old. The poultry industry of today does not have much in common with the industry 30 years ago. Performance parameters such as bodyweight and feed conversion rate have improved up to 30% in the last 30 years (around 1-2 % per year).

It is logical to assume that nutrition programmes for commercial poultry production, including vitamin supplements, need to be adjusted in a manner consistent with improved management techniques and zootechnical performance.

Performance improvements of up to 30% have been made in the last 30 years, so it is logical to assume nutrition programmes need to be adjusted in a manner consistent with these improvements

This adjustment should be based ideally on the most recent scientific studies, while also considering practical experience from producers as well as nutritional recommendations from breeding companies.

Science, industry expertise and vitamin levels

Testing different levels of individual vitamins could be one way to define the optimal use of vitamins in feed. Recent dsm-firmenich OVN™ webinars and poultry events have reviewed experimental data extracted from more than 50 papers on individual vitamins published over the last 10 years (further information available through the authors). Some examples of this research are shown in Figures 1-4.

Figure 1. Weight gain in chicks from 1-42 days of age fed diets with different levels of vitamin A (on top of the control diet with 8000 IU vit A/kg feed). Prediction equation: weight gain (1-42 d): -0.00000341vit.A2 + 0.10331vit.A + 2423.99964. R2: 0.68; p = 0.0001. Vitamin A level with maximum response: 15.148 IU. Maximum response: 3.206 g | Source: Savaris et al., 2021
Figure 2. Effect of vitamin A supplementation on egg mass (grams) of 42–54-week-old laying hens under heat stress conditions. Values with different letters differ significantly (p < 0.05). Standard error: 45.25 | Source: Abd El-Hack et al., 2016
Figure 3. Newcastle disease virus antibody titres in broilers (21 days of age) fed different levels of vitamin D3 with or without 25(OH)D3. Values with different letters are significantly different (p < 0.05) | Source: Vázquez et al., 2016
Vit.D3 (IU/kg)Average25(OH)D3 (mg/ton)Average
Figure 4. Effect of vitamin E and selenium levels in broiler diets on feed conversion rate at 49 days of age under heat stress. Standard error: 0.04. Values with different letters differ significantly (p = 0.005) | Source: Ekunseitan et al., 2021

We should not forget that vitamins are well known for their complementary catalytic roles in important metabolic processes with multiple interactions among them. This means that we might not see the full effect of increasing levels of individual vitamins if levels of other vitamins are a limiting factor. We need to better understand and quantify the effect of good levels of all vitamins in the same diet as it is unlikely that there is an additive effect of all the benefits seen in individual vitamin trials.

The latest nutritional recommendations from Aviagen for parent stock (2021) and broilers (2022) were developed in this way. They found relevant performance improvements, mainly in bodyweight and mortality of progeny, from breeders fed a vitamin booster when compared to offspring from breeders fed their previous vitamin recommendations (Figures 5-7).

Figure 5. Aviagen parent stock nutrient recommendation 2021
Figure 6. Influence of breeder vitamin booster on broiler liveweight (as hatched) | Source: Aviagen parent stock nutrient recommendations, 2021
Figure 7. Influence of breeder vitamin booster on broiler mortality (as hatched) | Source: Aviagen parent stock nutrient recommendation, 2021

A more recent study ( Gracia et al., 2022 PSA Latin American Scientific Conference) compared vitamin levels commonly used in Spain to the 2022 OVN™ broiler guidelines. Under the experimental conditions tested, the authors concluded that the supplementation of Ross 308 broiler diets with OVN™ 2022 vitamin levels:

  • significantly improved performance (body weight, daily gain and intake, mortality) during the starting phase (days 0 – 28) as well as a significantly reduced mortality over the whole fattening period (day 0 – 42, Table 1)
  • significantly improved the antioxidant status of the animals by increasing blood vitamin E at days 28 and 42 and plasma GPx at day 42 of age
  • significantly improved meat quality and oxidative stability of breast meat after 3-6 days of defrosting by means of reduced breast malondialdehyde (MDA)
Table 1. Optimum Vitamin Nutrition® for broiler performance, Spain 2022 | Source: Gracia et al., 2022 PSA Latin American Scientific Conference

Additionally, the cost-benefit calculation indicates that the return on investment, based on the experimental results and market prices at that time, was 3:1.

More information on the new 2022 OVN Optimum Vitamin Nutrition® Guidelines for Poultry is available here.

Why do we formulate vitamins? Adding value to feed

To meet the highest quality, nutritional, and legal requirements for animal feed production, premix producers and feed manufacturers need to handle additives safely and with great precision.

Vitamins are rarely added as pure substances to feed because they are often degraded due to instability towards oxygen, light or temperature. In some cases, they may not be suited to the rigors of the feed manufacturing processes, and in others, their handling properties may be poor.

Pure crystals of vitamins may look very attractive but in most cases are impossible to use in poultry unless they are properly formulated as feed additives and added into premix, feed or drinking water before the bird get access to them. It is important to ensure the right amount of each nutrient is delivered on a daily basis.

For maximum efficacy, feed additives like vitamins should be formulated for:

  • low dust and best handling to ensure feed mill worker safety
  • good flowability to allow a more efficient dosing operation and resulting in less product losses
  • best homogeneity in premix and feed
  • superior stability in premix and feed to facilitate correct daily intake of nutrients by animals
  • high bioavailability allowing efficient absorption and the best biological use by the animal
  • manufactured with the lowest environmental footprint for more sustainable farming

The final goal should be to achieve the best balance between handling, mixing, stability, and bioavailability factors depending on the specific application challenges.

Large overages (up to 100%) may be required to match the vitamin A nutritional requirements in poultry feed if unstable vitamin products are used, as demonstrated in the following trial.

An independent trial was conducted under practical pelleted feed industry conditions for pelleted feed.

  • Premixes produced with 3 different vitamin A products
  • Target vitamin A in feed: 10000 IU vit A/kg feed
  • Pelleting temperatures: 70°C, 80°C and 90°C
  • Holding times: 30, 60 and 120 seconds
  • Feed: Corn / wheat / soy produced by Kolding Technological Institute, Denmark
  • Vitamin analyses carried out by LUFA Kiel lab, Germany (method REG(EC) 152/2009, IV, A)
Table A. Vitamin A stability in pelleted feed, EU premixer 2020


(% vs. target in feed)


(% vs. target in feed)


(% vs. target in feed)


(% vs. target in feed)


vs. Rx A1000

dsm-firmenich A100088%106%101%98%100%
Prod. A49%61%52%54%55%
Prod. B65%57%54%59%60%

ROVIMIX® A1000 proved to be much more stable than other vitamin A products.

Commitment to sustainability

Providing feed mills, integrators, and producers with the right levels of high-quality and sustainable micro-nutrients can help them improve bird health, wellbeing, and performance, while also protecting the environment, succeeding in a dynamic and ever-changing global market, and enhancing both profits and environmental sustainability.

dsm-firmenich, as part of their sustainability commitment, has developed Environmental Vitamin Product Declarations (EPD) which transparently provide environmental footprint information to support purchasing decisions and to help better assess the product sustainability of feed mills and producers. A comparison of CO2 savings depending on the vitamin product form and type of animal production can be seen in Figures 8a and b. This tool allows producers to calculate their carbon footprint in premixes and adjust their footprint using tailor made solutions.

Figure 8. Potential CO2 emission savings coming from different vitamin product forms. A) CO2 savings and potential € value (carbon tax) per 10 T product form, and B) CO2 savings and potential € value (carbon tax) for a 100k T feed producer. Data from dsm-firmenich Environmental Product Declarations. Examples of CO2 savings based on average vitamin levels used in 100k T feed (dsm-firmenich Premix Carbon Calculator). **Value of CO2 saving assuming a carbon credit or tax of €50 per ton CO2


Production programmes for poultry, including vitamin supplementation, need to be adjusted in a manner consistent with the updated management techniques and genetics improvements which have supported the feed industry in achieving annual productivity improvements of +1-2%.

Testing different levels of individual vitamins as well as combinations of all vitamins compared to the current vitamin blends used by the industry seem to be a consistent strategy used to review and adjust optimal use of vitamins in feed.

Once vitamin levels are defined, maximum attention must be paid to the use of the correct vitamin product forms. This would avoid jeopardizing decisions taken by nutritionists to optimize animal health and meat/egg production costs with products which might not be stable enough or mix properly in premix or feed.

Supporting poultry with appropriate vitamins helps make farming more sustainable. OVN Optimum Vitamin Nutrition® is about feeding animals high quality vitamins, produced with the lowest environmental footprint, in the right amounts, appropriate to the life stage and growing conditions of the bird, to optimize animal health and welfare, animal performance and food quality and food waste.

Published on

06 December 2022


  • Poultry
  • Vitamins

About the Author

José-María Hernández - Technical Marketing Global, Animal Nutrition & Health at dsm-firmenich

José-María is a Spanish national holding a Degree in Veterinary Medicine and Masters in Exec-MBA and Marketing and Commercial Management.
Close to 35 years in the feed industry, he joined Roche-dsm-firmenich in 1989 and had different technical, commercial, and marketing positions in EMEA and Global (Poultry) Business and Category (Vitamins, Carotenoids) management in Spain, Switzerland as well as GM in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.


You are being redirected.

We detected that you are visitng this page from United States. Therefore we are redirecting you to the localized version.