Concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids in common beef cattle feedstuffs

C. L. Pickworth, S. C. Loerch, R. E. Kopec, S. J. Schwartz, F. L. Fluharty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Quantification of the pro-vitamin A carotenoids in feedstuffs commonly fed to livestock has been ignored for many years. A greater dietary concentration of vitamin A has the potential to limit adipogenesis in cattle, thereby reducing carcass quality and value. A survey of 18 feedstuffs commonly fed to beef cattle was conducted for determination of vitamin A equivalents based on analysis of carotenoids. The pro-vitamin A carotenoids of interest were β-carotene, α-carotene, and β-cryptoxanthin. Collaborators in 5 states collected the feedstuffs and then shipped them to The Ohio State University for compilation and analysis. Carotenoids were extracted from the feedstuffs and then quantified using HPLC with photodiode array analysis. Fresh fescue pasture contained approximately 10 times more vitamin A equivalents than hay and 5 times more than corn silage (39,865, 2,750, and 6,900 IU of vitamin A/kg of DM for fresh pasture, hay, and corn silage, respectively). Beta-cryptoxanthin and α-carotene could not be detected in any forage samples. Hay and corn silage vitamin A equivalents decreased over extended periods of time from harvest to sample collection. Corn was the only feedstuffto have appreciable concentrations of all 3 pro-vitamin A carotenoids quantified. Corn processing had a minimal impact on the vitamin A equivalents. High-moisture corn contained 54% more vitamin A equivalents than whole shelled corn (378 and 174 IU of vitamin A/kg of DM, respectively). Pro-vitamin A carotenoids were more concentrated in corn coproducts than in whole shelled corn. The drying of distillers grains with solubles may significantly degrade β-carotene (800 and 480 IU/kg of DM for wet and dry distillers grains, respectively). Soybean-based feedstuffs contain a small concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids, at 55 and 45 IU of vitamin A/kg of DM for soybean meal and soybean hulls, respectively. Overall, there was considerable variation in the provitamin A content of feedstuffs based on location and storage conditions. An extensive analysis of feedstuffs would need to be conducted for an accurate estimation of the vitamin A content of feedlot cattle diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1553-1561
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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