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Animal Health & Nutrition

Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. He provides livestock production advice.

High Feed Costs Help Suppress Vitamin Prices

Dec 03, 2012

The decline in vitamin usage has resulted in 12-15% lower vitamin markets.

An ironic consequence of high feed costs has been lower supplemental vitamin prices. Feedinfo News Service reported recently that vitamin A, D and E prices have actually declined due the high cost of feed.

High feed costs have prompted many of the livestock industry’s largest producers (poultry, swine, dairy and beef) to trim their supplemental vitamin usage in an effort to reduce cost. The decline in vitamin usage has resulted in 12-15% lower vitamin markets, according to the report. The report also stated that restoring vitamin supplementation to previous usage levels in these operations will probably take longer (months) than the initial decline. Unless these operations were overfeeding vitamins to begin with, deficiency symptoms may start to show up over time or when animals are subjected to disease challenges.

The worldwide vitamin business is controlled by very few players. China now produces most of our vitamins. Once the vitamins in the pipeline are depleted, China could easily shut down production to reduce supply and inflate prices. The vitamin markets have been extremely variable in recent years because of this.

Some premix manufacturers elect to keep their vitamin pricing as stable as possible, regardless of current markets. Others may fluctuate more with the markets. Buying vitamins is kind of a crap shoot for premix manufacturers, and they often end up with inventory that is higher than current market prices.

In the end, it’s hard for most livestock producers to reap much benefit when vitamin prices are low. I recommend maintaining vitamin supplementation at levels for optimum health and performance, based on National Research Council (NRC) guidelines, regardless of prices. Shorting animals to reduce cost can come back and bite you, especially during the winter when most of us are feeding forage that has been stored for a few months. Vitamin levels in forages deplete rapidly during storage. On the other hand, feeding higher than recommended levels usually has no benefit. Take advantage of vitamins that occur naturally in fresh forages, especially vitamin E, which is always expensive.