Vitamin E Requirements for Finishing Cattle and Beef Cows

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is required for animal growth, helps to maintain immune function and animal health, and aids in the prevention of muscular dystrophy in young calves. Further to this, vitamin E is involved with the control of nerves, muscles, and senses. For example, contraction of muscles allowing movement, heartbeat, rumen, and lung function, are all influenced by vitamin E. Excretion of manure, feed conversion efficiency, growth and reproductive performance are also affected. It has been noted that the incidence of mastitis and retained placentas increase when vitamin E is deficient in pre-calving rations.


Interestingly, Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant that enhances meat quality by helping to maintain its bright pink or red color and taste. This improves customer acceptance of packaged beef in retail displays. When meat starts to oxidize, discoloration and off-flavors or off-odors develop in the meat. Shelf life of packaged beef can be improved when animals are fed high levels of vitamin E prior to slaughter. 


Fresh, growing forages have enough vitamin E to meet grazing livestock’s nutritional requirements. On the other hand, research indicates that vitamin levels in all stored feeds decrease with time. In fact, the fermentation process involved with making silage destroys most vitamins. Supplemental vitamin E is required in all rations that contain dry hay, silage, greenfeed and in swath grazing situations.


Table 1. Vitamin E needed in rations (IU/day)

Class of Cattle

Inclusion Rate (IU/day)

Pregnant cows


Lactating cows


Young calves


Growing calves


Finishing steers



The amount of vitamin E present in different feed products is variable and should be considered when planning rations. Feeding supplemental vitamins in a total mixed ration, adding the vitamins prior to feeding silage, or including vitamins in a grain mix that is fed daily, improves intake and even distribution among animals. Producers should monitor intake in free-choice programs to ensure consumption is adequate to meet individual animal requirements.


Resource: Vitamin E Requirements for Finishing Cattle and Beef Cows. Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation.