Milk Replacer Vitamin A, D, and E Levels: Deficient, Adequate, and Potentially Excessive Amounts



The National Research Council (NRC, 2001) recommendations for concentration of vitamins A, D, and E needed in milk replacers to prevent deficiencies are based on results of research investigations (Table 1). Vitamin A is most recognized for its role in supporting vision, growth, and reproduction. Vitamin E is recognized for prevention of white muscle disease and supporting immune system function.

The NRC recommendations for vitamins A, D, and E and the level of these vitamins found in whole milk and Dairy Solutions® Nurstrate® milk replacers are given in Table 1. According to the NRC, whole milk is adequate in vitamin A, supplies half the vitamin D, and only 6.6% of the vitamin E needed by calves. Compared to NRC recommendations, Dairy Solutions Nurstrate milk replacers supply the following vitamin levels:

  • Vitamin A is approximately 5.5 times greater than NRC recommendations

  • Vitamin D is approximately 14 times greater than NRC recommendations

  • Vitamin E is approximately 6.6 times greater than NRC recommendations

Research during the past 20 years has increased nutritionists' understanding of requirements and potential interactions of and between vitamins A, D, and E. Several researchers have demonstrated an adverse effect of vitamin A supply on vitamin E status of calves fed milk replacer. Results of a recently released study (Amertaj et. al., 2000) showed a 36% reduction of RRR-a-tocopherol (vitamin E) in plasma of calves supplemented with 34 KIU of vitamin A (Table 1). Nonnecke and coworkers (1999) observed a similar effect on RRR-a-tocopherol (vitamin E) levels when calves were supplied with the equivalent of 20 KIU and 32 KIU vitamin A when only 20 IU/lb of vitamin E where supplied.

Past (NRC, 1989) and recent (NRC, 2000) NRC recommendations for vitamin E have been questioned when optimal immune function is considered. Reddy and coworkers (1987) determined that immune function and performance were optimized when 125 IU of supplemental vitamin E was supplied daily from birth to 24 weeks of age. Two additional levels were tested (250 and 500 IU/d vitamin E), but were found not to be different (250 IU), or slightly detrimental (500 IU) to performance.

Present levels of vitamins A, D, and E in Dairy Solutions Nurstrate milk replacers are formulated at levels to support optimal performance given the research available and NRC recommendations. Additionally, it should be noted that the old adage "if a little is good, a lot is better" does not appear to be supported for vitamin levels in milk replacers and calf growth.

Table 1

NRC Recommended1, Whole Milk2, and ADM Alliance Nutrition Milk Replacers, and Potential Interaction3 Level of Vitamins A, D, and E



Whole Milk4

ADM Alliance Nutrition Milk Replacers4

Potential Interaction Level4

Vitamin A, KIU/lb





Vitamin D, KIU/lb





Vitamin E, IU/lb





Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle, 7th Revised Ed., 2001.
2 Preruminant Calf Nutrition, The Veterinary Clinics of North America, July 1991.
3 Ametaj et. al., J. Nutr. 130:629-636.
4 Values have been adjusted to 90% dry matter basis.
5 Potential toxicity level for mature cow adjusted to a 100 lb body weight basis, NRC 2001.
6 Upper limit established in rats adjusted to a 100 lb body weight basis.


Ametaj, B. N., B. J. Nonnecke, S. T. Franklin, R. L. Horst, W. R. Bidlack, R. L. Stuart, and D. C. Beitz. 2000. Dietary vitamin A modulates the concentration of rrr-a-tocopherol in plasma lipoproteins from calves fed milk replacer. J. Nutr. 130:629-636.

ADM Alliance Nutrition Dairy Reference Manual. 2003.

National Research Council. 1989. Pages 43-46 in. Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. 6th rev. ed., Natl. Acad. Sci., Washington, DC.

National Research Council. 2000. Pages 223-225 in. Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. 7th rev. ed., Natl. Acad. Sci., Washington, DC.

Nonnecke, B. J., R. L. Horst, W. R. Waters, P. Dubeski, and J. A. Harp. 1999. Modulation of fat-soluble vitamin concentrations and blood mononuclear leukocyte populations in milk replacer-fed calves by dietary vitamin A and b-carotene. J. Dairy Sci. 82:2632-2641.

Reddy, P. G., J. L. Morrill, and R. A. Frey. 1987. Vitamin E requirements of dairy calves. J. Dairy Sci. 70:123-129.

Reddy, P. G., J. L. Morrill, H. C. Minocha, and J. S. Stevenson. 1987. Vitamin E is immunostimulatory in calves. J. Dairy Sci. 70:993-999.

Tomkins, T., and E. H. Jaster. 1991. Preruminant calf nutrition. Vet. Clinics N. Amer. 7:2:557-576.






ADM Alliance Nutrition, Inc. , a wholly owned subsidiary of the Archer Daniels Midland Company