Low postpartum blood calcium remains one of the largest constraints to postpartum feed intake, milk yield and energy balance in transitioning dairy cows.

Supplemental dietary anions decrease the dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) and reduce the risk for postpartum hypocalcemia. Prepartum management strategies aiming to minimize social stress and diet changes have resulted in a need to explore the effects of extended exposure to a negative DCAD (>21d) diet.

Holstein and Holstein-cross dairy cows (n=60) were assigned to one of three treatments 42days before expected calving to evaluate effects of supplying anions for 21 or 42days during the dry period on energy status, postpartum production, and Ca homeostasis.

Treatments included:

  • A control diet (CON; DCAD=12mEq/100g of DM).
  • A 21-day negative DCAD diet (21-ND; DCAD=12 and −16 mEq/100g of DM).
  • A 42-day negative DCAD diet (42-ND; DCAD=−16 mEq/100g of DM).

Cows fed CON were fed positive DCAD prepartum for 42days. Cows fed 21-ND received the positive DCAD (12mEq/100g of DM) diet for the first 21days of the dry period and the anionic diet (−16mEq/100g of DM) from day 22 until calving.

Cows fed 42-ND received the anionic diet for the entire dry period. Control and anionic diets were formulated by using two isonitrogenous protein mixes:

  • 97.5% soybean meal
  • 52.8% BioChlor (Church & Dwight Co. Inc.), 45.8% soybean meal.

Supplementing anions induced a mild metabolic acidosis, reducing urine pH for 21-ND and 42-ND compared with CON. Prepartum DMI was not different among treatments. Postpartum DMI was higher for 21-ND compared with CON (20.8 vs. 18.1±1.1kg/d), and 42-ND had similar DMI compared with 21-ND. During the first 56days of lactation 21-ND had greater average milk production compared with CON (44.8 vs. 39.2±2.1kg/d). Average milk production by 42-ND was similar to 21-ND. Postpartum total blood Ca concentration was greater for 42-ND. Cows fed anionic diets prepartum tended to have lower lipid accumulation in the liver after calving compared with CON. These data suggest low-DCAD diets fed for 21 or 42days during the dry period can have positive effects on postpartum DMI, Ca homeostasis and milk production.

Source: Journal of Dairy Science/W. Weich, E. Block, N.B. Litherland