Effect of diets containing sulfate or chloride-based anionic salts, fed to grazing prepartum dairy cows, on concentrations of Ca in plasma, disease incidence and milk yield

N Z Vet J. 2019 Mar;67(2):79-85. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2018.1556747. Epub 2018 Dec 20.


Aims: To compare the effect of two partial mixed ration diets containing either sulfate or chloride-based anionic salts, fed to grazing prepartum dairy cows, on concentrations of Ca, Mg, P and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in plasma, disease incidence and milk yield during the early postpartum period.

Methods: The study was conducted on a seasonal-calving grazing dairy farm located in Benton (MO, USA). In August 2016, two groups of 200 cows were randomly assigned at 30 days before expected parturition to receive either a sulfate or chloride-based anionic diet, to achieve a dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) of -25 mEq/kg DM. Cows were fed partial mixed rations to provide 50% of their DM intake, with 50% provided by grazing fescue pasture. Urine samples were collected from 20 cows from each group once a week for 5 weeks until calving for pH assessment. At parturition, 42 cows per group were selected at random and blood samples collected on Days 1, 2, 3 and 7 postpartum. The study continued until 100 cows per group calved. Health events and cumulative milk yield until 30 days postpartum were recorded. Concentrations of Ca, P, and Mg in plasma at Days 1, 2, 3, and 7, and BHB in plasma at Day 7 postpartum were assessed.

Results: Mean urine pH was lower in cows in the chloride than sulfate group (p≤0.06) on four of five sampling occasions. Mean concentrations of Ca in plasma on Day 1 were 2.00 (95% CI=1.94-2.05) and 1.91 (95% CI=1.88-1.97) mmol/L for the chloride and sulfate groups, respectively (p=0.15), and on Day 3 were 2.03 (95% CI=1.97-2.08) and 1.90 (95% CI=1.84-1.96) mmol/L, respectively (p=0.038). Concentrations of Mg, P and BHB in plasma and incidence of diseases postpartum were similar in both groups (p>0.05). There were no cases of clinical hypocalcaemia in either group.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Prepartum cows fed a partial mixed ration with a negative DCAD containing chloride-based anionic salts and free access to a fescue pasture had lower prepartum urine pH, and higher concentrations of total Ca in plasma during the first week postpartum, than cows receiving a partial mixed ration containing sulfate-based anionic salts.

Keywords: Dairy cows; anionic diets; grazing; hypocalcaemia; negative DCAD; prepartum.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Calcium / blood*
  • Cattle / blood
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Chlorides / pharmacology*
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Lactation / drug effects
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Random Allocation
  • Sulfates / chemistry
  • Sulfates / pharmacology*


  • Chlorides
  • Sulfates
  • Calcium