Nutrition Plus Blog

Preparing Pre-fresh Cows for Transition With Negative DCAD

Transition into lactation is one of the most important times in a dairy cow’s life. It’s also a period that offers dairy producers and nutritionists opportunities for success—as well as potential challenges. Using a supplement like SoyChlor can improve close-up cow health, rumination and lactation.

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The Skinny


A recent study compared close-up cows fed diets that either prevented or induced hypocalcemia.

  • The cows that received a negative DCAD diet ruminated longer the day before calving and following calving than did the cows fed a positive DCAD diet.
  • On the first and second days of lactation the cows fed a negative DCAD diet consumed significantly more feed than non-supplemented cows.
  • Four cows on the positive DCAD diet developed milk fever and were treated with an intravenous calcium solution.

Are you interested in negative DCAD solutions? SoyChlor is an anionic supplement proven to help cows transition successfully. Learn more about negative DCAD in our newsletter. Sign up here.


The Details

A recent study conducted by Dr. Jeff Goff, professor emeritus, Iowa State University, confirms that negative DCAD prepares cows for transition.

However, the research also revealed that hypocalcemia affects rumination activity, resulting in lower feed consumption.

The study compared the rumination activity of periparturient cows fed a diet to either prevent or induce hypocalcemia.

Twenty-six cows entering their third or greater lactation were enrolled in the study. Researchers fed an anion-supplemented, or negative DCAD diet (-9 mEq/kg DM) to half of the group, while they fed a positive DCAD diet (+ 196 mEq/kg DM), to the other half. After calving, all cows received the same lactation diet.

The study checked:

  • Dry matter intake
    Each cow’s intake of dry matter was measured daily from 14 days prior to calving to 5 days after.
  • Blood samples
    The samples were collected daily the week before calving, at calving and at 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4 and 10 days after calving.
  • Urine pH
    Urine samples of the two groups were also compared.

Research Results

The results of the study were very clear-cut. On the first and second days of lactation the cows fed a negative DCAD diet consumed significantly more feed than non-supplemented cows—8.5 lbs more feed on the first day and 7.5 lbs more feed on the second day.

  • The cows fed a negative DCAD diet had significantly higher blood calcium concentrations from 24 hours before calving through the first 36 hours of lactation.
  • Four cows on the positive DCAD diet developed milk fever and were treated with an intravenous calcium solution.
  • The urine pH of the cows fed a negative DCAD diet averaged 6.99 compared to 8.26 for non-supplemented cows.

Rumination activity was the same for all cows until 24 hours before calving. All cows’ rumination activity decreased at parturition.

However, during the 24-hour period before calving, cows fed a negative DCAD diet spent 101 more minutes ruminating—457 minutes compared to 356 minutes for the positive DCAD cows. That’s a 22 percent decrease in rumination activity for cows fed a positive DCAD diet.

A Closer Look

The difference in rumination activity continued through the first two days in milk (DIM). At one DIM, the difference was 127 minutes, and at two DIM the difference was 115 minutes more rumination activity for negative-DCAD cows compared to positive DCAD cows.

Researchers also examined the rumination activity data in two-hour blocks, starting at 12 hours before calving until 36 hours after calving. The four cows that developed milk fever had several two-hour periods where there was no detectable rumination activity. Even after intravenous calcium treatment and blood calcium levels had returned to normal, the cows with milk fever still had no detectable rumination activity for several hours.

We know that when rumination activity declines, cows eat less. That makes it difficult for cows to eat enough to meet the nutritional demands of lactation.

When rumination activity is undetectable, cows generally are not eating at all.

Cows fed negative DCAD diets were properly prepared for the challenges of calving and beginning lactation. Their blood calcium levels were higher, they ate more, they ruminated longer and they had a better transition into lactation.

To learn more about using SoyChlor, a proven negative DCAD supplement, please ask your Dairy Nutrition Plus representative or get in touch with us here.


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The above article was originally published in an earlier issue of the Dairy Nutrition Plus newsletter; find it here.

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