Supplemental Biotin for Dairy Cows by a62nh


									                             Supplemental Biotin for Dairy Cows

                                         W. P. Weiss
                               Department of Animal Sciences
                      Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center
                          The Ohio State University, Wooster 44691


         Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that is essential for cattle. However, for several decades
very little research was published on the effects of biotin in cattle. This lack of interest was
probably caused by the inability to produce clinical biotin deficiencies in functioning ruminants
and by the consensus that adequate biotin was provided by normal feedstuffs or was synthesized
by bacteria in the rumen and lower intestines. In the last few years, renewed interest on the
effects of supplemental biotin for cattle has developed. Most of the recent research has centered
on the effects of biotin on hoof health of dairy cows. Biotin, however, is involved in many
metabolic pathways directly involved with milk synthesis and interest is increasing on metabolic
and production responses to supplemental biotin.

Sources of Biotin

        Feeds commonly fed to dairy cows contain variable concentrations of biotin. Generally
higher protein feeds contain more biotin than feeds with low concentrations of protein. Feeds
that are byproducts of fermentation such as brewers and distillers grains contain high
concentrations of biotin. For typical mixed diets, biotin concentrations range from 0.2 to 0.4
mg/kg of dry matter. Those concentrations will result in intakes of dietary biotin from
unsupplemented diets of 4 to 10 mg of biotin/day for average lactating dairy cows

        Bacteria in the rumen and large intestine can synthesize biotin that can then be absorbed
by the cow. However, data on the quantity of biotin synthesized by ruminants are extremely
limited and variable. No data are available with lactating dairy cows. In studies with steers at
low dry matter intakes (less than 13 lbs/d) or in nonlactating cows estimates of ruminal synthesis
of biotin ranged from 0 to 2 mg/day (approximately 0.8 mg/kg of digestible organic matter
intake) (16). If those values are appropriate for lactating dairy cows, a typical cow consuming 44
lbs of dry matter/day would synthesize 0 to 10 mg of biotin each day. Ruminal synthesis rate of
biotin might be related to the diet. An in vitro study reported that biotin synthesis was reduced
as the concentration of dietary forage was reduced (1). In that study, biotin synthesis was
reduced by about 50% when the in vitro substrate was 50% forage and 50% concentrate
compared to an in vitro diet with about 80% forage. A study with duodenally canulated steers,
however, reported no difference in biotin flow to the small intestine when steers were fed diets
with 90% corn grain or 70% alfalfa meal (11). If higher concentrate diets do indeed reduce
ruminal biotin synthesis, then supply of biotin may be reduced when higher concentrate diets are
fed to dairy cows. This could be a reason why positive responses to supplemented biotin are
often observed in recent experiments but were not observed in earlier research when cows were
fed high forage diets.

        Data on the bioavailability of biotin to cattle are limited. In one study, the bioavailability
of dietary biotin (supplemental and basal) averaged about 50% (5). This is much lower than
values obtained with chicks and humans (about 100%). Supplemental biotin consistently
increases plasma and milk concentrations of biotin showing that at least some of the
supplemental biotin is absorbed by cows. Typical plasma concentrations of biotin in cows not
fed supplemental biotin are about 0.6 ng/ml. When cows are supplemented with 20 mg of
biotin/day, plasma concentrations are typically 1.2 to 2 ng/ml (15). Concentrations of biotin in
milk increase from about 20 ng/ml (unsupplemented cows) to 60 to 80 ng/ml when cows are
supplemented with 20 mg of biotin/day (15).

Effect of Biotin on Hoof Health

         Poor hoof horn quaity is related to the development of hoof horn lesions. The production
of hoof horn material is an extremely complex process. Two major components in hoof horn
development are keratinization and the production of membrane cementing substance. Biotin is
essential for keratinization and is likely involved in the synthesis of membrane cementing
substance (12). The involvement of biotin in these processes provide the biochemical basis for
the clinical responses observed when biotin is supplemented to dairy cows. Numerous clinical
trials have been conducted to examine the effect of supplemental biotin on hoof horn lesions and
lameness in dairy cows (Table 1). Although the response variable varied among experiments, all
studies reported reduced prevalence of specific lesions or clinical lameness when biotin was
supplemented. The supplementation rate was 20 mg/d in most studies but one study with beef
cows fed only 10 mg/d and reported a positive response. All studies involved long term (months)
biotin supplementation. Potzsch et al. (13) reported that 6 months of biotin supplementation was
required to reduce the risk of lameness caused by white line disease in lactating cows. Midla et
al. (10), however, reported a significant reduction in white line separation after approximately 3
months of supplementation. In the Potzsch et al study, lameness was measured but in the Midla
et al. study, lesions were examined which could be the reason for the difference in the length of
time required to see a response.

         The prevalence of many lesions of the foot are highest in early lactation (14). Because
several months of supplementation are required to elicit positive responses on hoof health, biotin
supplementation may be required during late gestation to elicit maximum responses. Hoblet et
al. (7) reported a lower prevalence of white line separation at 100 days in milk when heifers were
supplemented with biotin (20 mg/d) throughout gestation compared with those that received
supplementation starting at calving. Assuming 6 months of biotin supplementation is required to
reduce lameness, dry cows should be supplemented with biotin for maximum reduction in
lameness in early lactation. Although growing heifers that were supplemented with biotin
throughout gestation had reduced white line separation compared with those that started
receiving supplementation at calving (7), supplementation during the entire gestation period for
growing heifers may not be warranted because of cost. Presumably, supplementation during just
the last two months of gestation should be adequate. Lischer et al. (8) reported that healing of
sole ulcers in dairy cows was improved when cows were supplemented with 40 mg of biotin/d
for 50 days compared with unsupplemented control cows, but the authors suggested that 50 d
was too short for maximum differences between the two treatments.
Effect of Biotin on Milk Production

        Biotin supplementation could improve milk production by reducing lameness and hoof
disease. Potzsch et al. (13) estimated that lameness caused by white line disease cost
approximately $4500 per 100 cow-lactations. Most of this economic loss was caused by reduced
milk production. However, biotin may also have metabolic effects independent of its effects on
hoof disease that could influence milk production. Biotin is a cofactor of three different enzymes
that are used in pathways directly involved with synthesis of milk components. Two of the
enzymes are needed for synthesis of glucose and one is needed for synthesis of fatty acids. If
biotin was limiting, activity of these enzymes may be decreased resulting in reduced milk
synthesis (glucose) or milk fat synthesis.

        Five studies (both field studies and controlled research trials) have been conducted that
measured production responses to biotin supplementation (Table 2). The most common
treatments were control (no supplementation) and 20 mg of supplemental biotin per day. In the
four studies with higher producing cows (>80 lbs/day) supplementation increased milk
production 2 to 7 lbs/day (average response = 3.4 lbs/day). In a study with lower producing
cows (<45 lbs/d) biotin supplementation had no effect. In the two controlled research trials,
cows fed 20 mg of supplemental biotin/d had higher milk protein yields than cows fed no
supplemental biotin but fat yields were not affected. One study with high producing cows
supplemented 0, 10, or 20 mg/d and reported a linear increase in milk production (15). Another
study compared production responses when cows were fed 20 or 40 mg of supplemental biotin
per day (no unsupplemented treatment) and reported no difference between treatments. These
data suggest that supplementation rates around 20 mg/d are probably adequate to increase milk
production by high producing cows.

        Changes in hoof health and lameness are observed after months of biotin
supplementation, however, milk production response occur almost immediately upon
supplementation. Zimmerly and Weiss (15) fed 0, 10, or 20 mg of supplemental biotin/day
starting 14 d before calving and reported increased milk production within one week of calving.
Majee et al. (9) reported increased milk production when biotin was supplemented during a 28 d

       The exact mode of action is unclear but in most of the studies the increased milk yields
were probably not primarily a result of improved hoof health. Dry matter intake increased in one
study but was not affected by biotin supplementation in the other. Zimmerly and Weiss (15)
hypothesized that the likely mode of action for biotin was via increased glucose synthesis. This
hypothesis has not been tested directly but Majee et al. (9) reported that 20 mg/d of biotin
supplementation increased lactose yield.about 100 g/day.


1. In most studies, cows fed approximately 20 mg/d of supplemental biotin had reduced
prevalence of hoof lesions and lameness.

2. Biotin must be supplemented for several months before a response in hoof health will be

3. The economic return of improved hoof health caused by biotin supplementation has not been
evaluated directly. Considering only lameness caused by white line disease and continuous
supplementation of biotin (i.e., 365 day per year), the breakeven cost (i.e., if supplementation
costs were less, a positive return on investment would be expected) of biotin is $0.055/cow per
day (20 mg/d supplementation rate). Biotin supplementation has been shown to affect other hoof
lesions, therefore, the breakeven cost with respect to hoof health is probably higher.

4. Biotin supplementation increases milk yield by about 3 lbs/day for high producing cows.

5. Production responses occur shortly after supplementation begins.

6. Based on an average increase of 3 lbs of milk ($0.12/lbs.) per day and assuming an increase in
dry matter intake of 1.2 lbs/day ($0.07/lb of dry matter), the breakeven cost of biotin
supplementation (20 mg/day) is $0.28/cow per day based on milk yields.


1      Abel, H. J., I. Immig, C. D. Gomez, and W. Steinberg. 2001. Research note: Effect of
       increasing dietary concentrate levels on microbial biotin metabolism in the artificial
       rumen simulation system (RUSITEC). Arch Anim Nutr 55:371-376.

2      Bergsten, C., P. R. Greenough, J. M. Gay, W. M. Seymour, and C. C. Gay. 2003. Effects
       of biotin supplementation on performance and claw lesions on a commercial dairy farm.
       J. Dairy Sci. 86:3953-3962.

3      Campbell, J. R., P. R. Greenough, and L. Petrie. 2000. The effects of dietary biotin
       supplementation on vertical fissures of the claw wall in beef cattle. Can. Vet. J. 41:690-

4      Fitzgerald, T., B. W. Norton, R. Elliott, H. Podlich, and O. L. Svendsen. 2000. The
       influence of long-term supplementation with biotin on the prevention of lameness in
       pasture fed dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 83:338-344.

5      Frigg, M., O. C. Straub, and D. Hartmann. 1992. The bioavailability of supplemental
       biotin in cattle. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 63:122-128.

6      Hedges, J., R. W. Blowey, A. J. Packington, C. J. OCallaghan, and L. E. Green. 2001. A
       longitudinal field trial of the effect of biotin on lameness in dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci.

7      Hoblet, K., W. P. Weiss, D. Anderson, and M. Moeschberger. 2002. Effect of oral biotin
       supplementation on hoof health in Holstein heifers. XII Internat. Symp. on Lameness in
       Dairy Cattle 253-256.

8      Lischer, C. J., U. Koller, H. Geyer, C. Mulling, J. Schulze, and P. Ossent. 2002. Effect of

     therapeutic dietary biotin on the healing of uncomplicated sole ulcers in dairy cattle - a
     double blinded controlled study. Vet J 163:51-60.

9    Majee, D. N., E. C. Schwab, S. J. Bertics, W. M. Seymour, and R. D. Shaver. 2003.
     Lactation performance by dairy cows fed supplemental biotin and a B-vitamin blend. J.
     Dairy Sci. 86:2106-2112.

10   Midla, L. T., K. H. Hoblet, W. P. Weiss, and M. L. Moeschberger. 1998. Supplemental
     dietary biotin for prevention of lesions associated with aseptic subclinical laminitis
     (pododermatitis aseptica diffusa) in primiparous cows. Amer J Vet Res 59:733-738.

11   Miller, B. L., J. C. Meiske, and R. D. Goodrich. 1986. Effects of grain source and
     concentrate level on B-vitamin production and absorption in steers. J. Anim. Sci. 62:473-

12   Mulling, C. K. W., H. H. Bragulla, S. Reese, K. D. Budras, and W. Steinberg. 1999. How
     structures in bovine hoof epidermis are influenced by nutritional factors. Anat Histol
     Embryol 28:103-108.

13   Potzsch, C. J., V. J. Collis, R. W. Blowey, A. J. Packington, and L. E. Green. 2003. The
     impact on parity and duration of biotin supplementation on white line lameness in dairy
     cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 86:2577-2582.

14   Smilie, R. H., K. H. Hoblet, and W. P. Weiss. 1996. Prevalence of lesions associated with
     subclinical laminitis in first-lactation cows from herds with high milk production.
     JAVMA 208:1445-1451.

15   Zimmerly, C. A., and W. P. Weiss. 2001. Effects of supplemental biotin on performance
     of Holstein cows in early lactation. J. Dairy Sci. 84:498-506.

16   Zinn, R. A., F. N. Owens, R. L. Stuart, J. R. Dunbar, and B. B. Norman. 1987. B-vitamin
     supplementation of diets for feedlot calves. J. Anim. Sci. 65:267-277.

Table 1. Summary of controlled, published research on effect of biotin supplementation on hoof
lesions and lameness in dairy cows.

 Treatment             Design                          Results                           Ref.
 0 or 20 mg biotin/d   Field trial, 1 pen of 1st       Treatment reduced prevalence      10
 from calving until    lactation Holstein cows per     of while line separation at 100
 300 DIM               treatment                       DIM
 0 or 10 mg biotin/d   Field trial, 1 group of 1 and   Treatment reduced prevlence       3
 for 18 months         2 yr old beef heifers per       of vertical fissures on claw
                       treatment                       wall
 0 or 20 mg biotin/d   Field trial, 10 farms per       Treatment improved                4
 for 13 months         treatment (lactating Holstein   locomotion score and reduced
                       cows)                           prevalence of clinical
 0 or 20 mg/d for 18   Field trial, 1 group of         Treatment reduced prevalence      6
 months                lactating Holstein cows per     of white line separation
                       treatment on 5 farms
 0 or 40 mg/d for 50   Controlled study, 12            Treatment improved healing of     8
 d                     nonlactating dairy cows per     sole ulcers
 0 or 20 mg/d for 14   Field trial, supplement fed     Treatment reduced prevalence      2
 months                via computer, lactating         of sole hemorrhages
                       Holstein cows

Table 2. Summary of experiments that measured effects of biotin supplementation on milk yield.

 Treatment                Design                      Results                            Ref.
 0 or 20 mg biotin/d      Field trial, 1 pen of 1st   Treatment increased 305 d ME       10
 from calving until 300   lactation Holstein cows     by 682 lbs (P < 0.05). Control
 DIM                      per treatment               ME = 25,900 lbs.
 0 or 20 mg biotin/d      Field trial, 10 farms per   No effect on milk yield yields     4
 for 13 months            treatment (lactating        were 42 lbs/d for control and 40
                          Holstein cows)              lbs/d for treatment.
 0 or 20 mg/d for 14      Field trial, supplement     Treatment increased 305 d milk     2
 months                   fed via computer,           by 1058 lbs. (P < 0.05). Control
                          lactating Holstein cows     milk = 22,200 lbs
 0, 10, or 20 mg/d from   Controlled study, 15        Linear (P<0.05) effect. 81, 83,    15
 14 d before through      Holstein cows/ trt, first   and 87 lbs/d for 0, 10, and 20
 100 days after calving   100 d of lactation          mg
 0 or 20 mg/d for 28 d    Latin square, 24            Treatment increased milk 2.2       9
 periods                  observations per            lbs/d (P < 0.05). Control milk =
                          treatment, early            82 lbs/day.
                          lactation Holstein cows
 20 or 40 mg/d for 28 d   Latin square, 24 obs.       No difference in milk production   9
 periods                  per treatment, early        between treatments. Average
                          lactation Holstein cows     production = 90 lbs/d


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