Teagasc researchers have found that it is not just humans in Ireland who may go short of vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin.
They have evaluated the levels of the vitamin in Irish calves for the first time.
According to Kieran Meade of Teagasc Grange, the results show that it could take four months before Irish spring-born calves reach the level of vitamin D generally thought to be required for optimal health. Therefore, they may have an increased risk of developing disease.
Vitamin D supplementation is extensive in calf rations. However, young calves are not consuming rations, and milk (or milk replacer) is usually their sole source of nutrition.
Additionally, in spring, when the sun intensity is low, and cows calve indoors, it is possible that calves may be susceptible to disease due to vitamin D deficiency.
Future research will determine if direct supplementation of the calf, as well as increased levels in the diet of the dam, may help to boost the calves’ immune systems during the important early window of disease susceptibility.
Vitamin D is needed for calf growth, and for activation and regulation of an immune response.