Sunday, October 30, 2005

Vitamin K and the Gamecock

Vitamin K and the Gamecock

Vitamin K is an important nutrient for the fighting cock. This compound, essential for the rapid coagulation of blood, is actually found in several forms, which are referred to as vitamin K1, vitamin K2, and vitamin K3.

Vitamin K1 is a naturally-occurring form of the vitamin and occurs in varying concentrations in most green leafy plants. After K1 is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transported to the liver, where it is converted vitamin K2.

Vitamin K2 is also synthesized in the intestinal tract by the resident microbial population. The degree of benefit the host receives from this process varies dependent upon the species (the length of the digestive tract), and the site of production relative to the site of absorption.

The synthetic form of this vitamin is the K3 form, which is found on the feed analysis tag as menadione sodium bisulphite (MSB), menadione sodium bisulphite complex (MSBC), and menadione pyrimidinol bisulphite (MPB). After it is absorbed, only a small portion is converted to the biologically active form (K2) and stored in the liver; most is rapidly excreted. Typically, the vitamin K found in the layer pellets purchased to be mixed in the ration provide the only source of supplemental vitamin K for most cockers. The pellets are mixed with other grains, which have little or no vitamin K content. As you can see, this practice dilutes the vitamin content in general, including vitamin K, and indicates one reason why we need to supplement our fowl's rations.

The role of vitamin K in the production of prothrombin (blood clotting factor) is complex. Thirteen different proteins are required for the clotting mechanism to take place efficiently; vitamin K is required to make four of the thirteen. Vitamin K basically serves as a "co-factor" to enzymatic conversions of precursor compounds to the required proteins, including prothrombin.

Most researchers in this field agree that intestinal biosynthesis of vitamin K2 is sufficient to meet the needs of domestic animals, although supplementation is suggested as a safety factor. There are several conditions which may prevent the production and/or absorption of sufficient levels of this vitamin. Vitamin K deficiency can be caused by ingestion of mycotoxins, a toxin produced by mold species found in feed. Mycotoxins are extremely potent toxins and can have significant toxic effects on several organ systems in the body. Avoid moldy feed at all cost. Another common cause of vitamin K deficiency is the over-use of antibiotics, which destroy the beneficial microbial population in the intestinal tract. For example, chicks with coccidiosis suffer chronic blood loss and are often treated with strong sulfa drugs which wipe out the healthy bacterial population, along with the harmful ones. Supplementation with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and vitamin K is widely recommended after antibiotic treatment.

Supplementation of vitamin K is important as the birds are prepared for battle. Natural forms of vitamin K should be used during the keep, as they are relatively non-toxic and also provide other beneficial nutrients. Injectable forms of vitamin K should be used with extreme caution, as they can cause toxic effects in large doses (I have a friend who found this out as his partner "flattened" a show of sharp cocks the morning of the derby, by giving them injectable vitamin K. Injectable vitamins should never be administered to the birds on fight day). From a poultry nutritionist's perspective, and a cocker's experience, I recommend two natural sources: liver and alfalfa. Both are excellent sources of natural vitamin K (K2, and K1, respectively) and provide many other beneficial nutrients such as essential minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Fresh green grass is also a good source of vitamin K and cocks should have access to grass frequently during the pre-keep and the conditioning period prior to battle. During the winter months or in very dry areas where there is little grass, fowl will benefit greatly if you provide them with liver and/or alfalfa supplements. For more information on nutrition and natural supplements that help your fowl compete at the highest level, please visit my web page at: http://www.pitmaster.com/purdy .

©1998 John W. Purdy

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