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J Dairy Sci. 2005 Jan;88(1):264-76.

Manipulating the dietary cation-anion difference via drenching to early-lactation dairy cows grazing pasture.

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Dexcel Ltd., Hamilton, New Zealand.


Diets offered to grazing dairy cows can vary considerably in their dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) and are often well in excess of what has been considered optimal. The effects of a range of DCAD on the health and production of pasture-based dairy cows in early lactation was examined in a randomized block design. Four groups of 8 cows were offered a generous allowance of pasture (45 +/- 6 kg/d of dry matter (DM) per cow) for 35 d and achieved mean pasture intakes of approximately 17 kg/d of DM per cow. Cows were drenched twice daily with varying combinations of mineral compounds to alter the DCAD. Dietary cation-anion difference ranged from +23 to +88 mEq/100 g of DM. A linear increase in blood pH and HCO(3)(-) concentration and blood base excess, and a curvilinear increase in the pH of urine with increasing DCAD indicated a nonrespiratory effect of DCAD on metabolic acid-base balance. Plasma concentrations of Mg, K, and Cl declined as DCAD increased, whereas Na concentration increased. Urinary excretion of Ca decreased linearly as DCAD increased, although the data suggest that the decline may be curvilinear. These results in conjunction with the increased concentrations of ionized Ca suggest that intestinal absorption of Ca or bone resorption, or both, increased as DCAD declined. Dry matter intake, as measured using indigestible markers, was not significantly affected by DCAD. However, the linear increase in the yield of linolenic acid, vaccenic acid, and cis-9, trans-11 conjugated linoleic acid in milk, as DCAD increased is consistent with a positive effect of DCAD on DM intake. Increasing DCAD did not significantly affect milk yield or milk protein, but the concentration and yield of milk fat linearly increased with increasing DCAD. The increased milk fat yield was predominantly a result of increased de novo synthesis in the mammary epithelial cells, although an increase in the yield of preformed fatty acids also occurred. Milk production results suggest that DCAD for optimal production on pasture diets may be higher than the +20 mEq/100 g of DM previously identified for total mixed rations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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