Published on 31st March 2016

What is the role of ß-carotene in cattle?

ß-carotene is an important precursor of vitamin A and is closely associated with bovine fertility and health. Furthermore ß-carotene is an antioxidant and can directly enhance immunity. For cattle breeders the economic losses due to reproductive disorders can amount up to €150 per cow per year. Additionally, reproductive disorders account for between a quarter and a half of all herd culling. The majority of basic feedstuff for dairy cows is low in ß-carotene.  In pastures, ß-carotene content is highly influenced by the season. Thus, blood levels in cattle are low in the winter season and high in the summer when cattle have access to fresh pasture. To ensure optimal dietary intake of ß-carotene,  cattle feed is supplemented with ß-carotene. In order to determine the right levels of supplementation in the feed, the status of ß-carotene in cattle must be measured*.

What are the optimal levels of ß-carotene?

When measured in cattle blood, the optimal concentration of ß-carotene is from 3.5 mg/L and up. When the blood levels are below 1.5 mg/L, it is defined as deficient and supplementation of 500 mg ß-carotene/cow/day is recommended. For the marginal levels defined as 1.5 – 3.5 mg/L, the recommended supplementation is 300 mg ß-carotene/cow/day.

How is ß-carotene measured?

Traditional methods for estimating ß-carotene levels in blood include color charts, giving qualitative results, and  spectrophotometry or high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), giving quantitative results. These methods, however, have significant limitations. Color deviations due to hemolysis or increased bilirubin levels often  lead to an overestimation of the ß-carotene concentration, especially in the marginal range critical for diagnosis. Spectrophotometric and HPLC methods provide highly accurate results, but require extensive sample preparation steps and expensive equipment in a laboratory setting. To fill this gap an alternative quantitative test kit, iCheck Carotene was developed. iCheck Carotene delivers lab-level accuracy at a fraction of the cost of lab bound methods and can be used directly at cow side.

How does iCheck Carotene work?

iCheck Carotene is an all inclusive test kit that combines a portable pre-calibrated single-wavelength photometer and a pre-filled reagent vial that also serves as a cuvette for the photometer. No sample preparation is required and the result is obtained within a few minutes time in mg ß-carotene per liter.

Is iCheck Carotene validated?

iCheck Carotene is validated to measure carotenoids in  blood, milk, salmon, eggs, beverages, vitamin premix, and raw roots (i.e. cassava, carrots). Multiple scientific publications are available with iCheck Carotene in cattle whole blood, colostrum  and milk. Method comparison to HPLC shows excellent correlation at r2 = 0.98**.

*Production and Reproduction response of Dairy Cows to Supplemental Beta Carotene. De Ondarza, MB, 2009.
**Validation of a new point-of-care assay for determination of ß-Carotene concentration in bovine whole blood and plasma. Raila, J., 2012.

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