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Thiamin injections are often used to treat sulfate induced polioencephalomalacia (PEM) in beef cattle. It is unclear whether supplemental thiamin will reduce the incidence of PEM and improve performance in steers consuming water with elevated sulfate levels. This study was conducted to determine the effects of thiamin supplementation on performance and health of growing steers consuming water with high sulfate levels. Sixty-three steers (737 ± 2.97 lb) were stratified by weight and randomly allotted to one of nine pens. Pens were assigned to one of three treatments (3 pens/treatment) based on water sulfates and thiamin supplementation. Treatments were: 1) low sulfate water (average = 393 ppm sulfates) with no supplemental thiamin (LS); 2) high sulfate water (average = 3786 ppm sulfates) with no supplemental thiamin (HS); and 3) high sulfate water (average = 3790 ppm sulfates) with supplemental thiamin at 1 g/hd/d (HST). The study was conducted from June 16 to August 22, 2003. Water was obtained from a rural water system and sodium sulfate was mixed in the water to create desired sulfate levels in the HS and HST treatments. Steers were fed a diet containing grass hay, wheat middlings, and supplement. The supplement was identical for all treatments except for the addition of thiamin to HST. Water intake did not differ between treatments (P = 0.24). Steers on HST had a higher (P = 0.05) ADG than those on HS, and steers on LS had a higher (P = 0.01) ADG than HS or HST (1.79, 1.08, 1.39 lb/d for LS, HS, and HST, respectively). Steers on LS had higher (P = 0.01) DMI than steers in HS or HST. Steers on LS and HST had a higher (P < 0.10) gain/feed than steers on HS (0.192, 0.141, and 0.172 for LS, HS, and HST, respectively). The incidence of PEM was 4.8 and 14.3% for HST and HS, respectively, compared to no cases of PEM in the LS treatment (P < 0.10). There were no differences in the incidence of PEM between HST and HS (P = 0.29). Thiamin supplementation (1 g/hd/d) improved ADG and gain/feed in steers receiving high sulfate water.

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